A young Suffolk volunteer gave up spending Christmas at home this year, in order to support people living in poverty on the other side of the world.
Olivia Ranoe-Hall, 21, travelled 4,500 miles away from her family in Long Melford to work alongside a team of British and Indian volunteers on the UK government-funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme in India.
Living with a local family to immerse herself in the culture and better understand the local challenges, Olivia has spent the festive season teaching children and helping women to try to tackle discrimination.
It is part of a wider project aimed at improving education and helping young Indians to overcome gender inequality in Rajasthan.
“I’m waking up with the sun shining and temperatures reaching 27 degrees, so the realisation that it is December is quite baffling,” she said.
“I will be thinking of my family on Christmas Day, and I will definitely miss my mum’s roast dinner.
“But I feel incredibly lucky to be spending it in this way. It’s a unique experience with other wonderful volunteers and my amazing host family.”
“So far, our biggest achievements have been building strong relationships in the community and successfully setting up and running several women’s meetings, with attendance growing to almost 30.
“We have conducted lots of sessions in the school and it’s always fun and motivating to see children smile.”
“Living in our community in India is proving an incredible experience.
“I have a wonderful host family that looks after me so well and they really are like a second family.
“We have exchanged dance moves, phrases, clothes and music. They have also named their new-born baby buffalo after me.
“The experiences and learnings during this project are things you will not get from formal education.
“Immersing yourself fully into the culture, living with and learning from a host family, becoming part of the community, and becoming a friend as well as a facilitator for change really is an unmissable opportunity.”
Felicity Morgan, the director of ICS at VSO, the international development organisation, said: “Olivia has joined thousands of other ICS volunteers, who are doing amazing work around the world, every day.
“We’re incredibly proud that UK aid is supporting young Brits bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities.”