A unique platform

The Government-funded volunteer programme Platform2 sends UK youths to developing countries in South America and Africa - fancy applying for the trip of a lifetime?

“We planned to take on small numbers in the first few months, but we’re rapidly growing the numbers through marketing the scheme,” says Vyner. Platform 2 began in the summer of 2008, with projects in Ghana and South Africa. Today volunteers can also visit Peru, India or Malawi as the programme rapidly expands its outreach.

Platform2 was developed through the coordinated efforts of Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and British Universities North America Club, while the Department for International Development covers the financial costs. Elizabeth Adebayo, 23, from London, applied to take advantage of the programme’s unique opportunities. “I didn’t want to wake up when I’m 35 and think I didn’t get to do what I’ve always wanted to do,” she says.

The project ties into a number of crucial Government targets, such as raising development awareness and expanding the opportunities of ethnic minorities in the UK. It encourages “people to come back and put something back into the communities that they live and work in, primarily by raising development awareness amongst their peers,” says Vyner.

The intention of Platform2 is to make volunteering in developing countries more accessible to less-advantaged students in our own country. Young adults aged 18 to 25 that cannot afford to travel outside the UK are encouraged to apply to any of the 10-week long projects, which enable young people to improve their understanding of different cultures in India, Africa and South America. Volunteers have the option of working on a range of community-based projects, such as constructing eco centres and community buildings, teaching children and assisting in HIV clinics.

Laura Brumsitt, 18, from Liverpool, went to South Africa, where she worked as a teaching assistant on a nature reserve in Cape Town. “Before I went I was worried about missing home a lot, but everyone was really friendly there,” she says. “The time actually went quite quickly.”

Brumsitt says the most exciting aspect of the trip was “interacting with the people” and getting used to the exotic wildlife. “The first day we got there we found ostriches pecking at the windows and frogs in the toilet! But by the end you are used to it,” she says.

Over the three-year programme, 2,500 youths from the UK will be given the chance to volunteer with all expenses covered by Platform2. Successful applicants are placed on projects based on their skills, preferences and suitability to the roles on offer; volunteers are sent out in groups of 15, and many of them stay with host families, or in dormitories. Upon returning, volunteers are encouraged to express their experience through blogs, rap, videos, or even dramas, with the help of the Platform2 staff. “When the volunteers come back we help them adjust, and help them to tell their story,” says Vyner.

To find out more and volunteer for the Platform2 scheme, visit www.myplatform2.com

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