A WOMAN from York has learned first-hand about international poverty by volunteering in one of the poorest countries in the world, writes Kezia Buckley.
Cat Baker, who is 22 and a former Fulford Sixth Form pupil, spent three months working with a Government-funded scheme at Burkina Faso in West Africa.
Cat volunteered with the York-based charity International Service, which specialises in sending development workers to help small non-government organisations in marginalised communities working with disabled people, young people and women, in the capital city of Ouagadougou.
Cat, who recently graduated from the University of Bristol, said: “I wanted to go abroad and learn more about poverty, as well as experience a life completely different to my own.
“Meeting the partners was the scariest part; I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to speak to anyone. I previously volunteered in Madagascar, but this project was totally different.
“Instead of completing a set task, like building a school, you are helping the charity’s long-term goals, by helping develop their organisation and promote what they do.”
The organisations she worked with included Handicap Solidiare Burkina (HSB), a disability rights organisation, and Tigoung Nonma, a collective of disabled artisans.
Cat said the scheme had allowed her to see first-hand the difficulties faced by some people in Burkina Faso.
She said: “I saw with my own eyes some of the huge issues affecting disabled people living in one of the poorest countries in the world.
“Working in HSB’s school for disabled children and seeing the conditions in which they and their families live was the most challenging thing.
“It was deeply shocking to see the situation they were living in.
“They are not allowed to enter certain public places and the roads and facilities there are terrible so access is a big issue. Every aspect of life is really difficult for them.”
For more details on the trip, or to find out about signing up to volunteer, go to hsburkina.tumblr.com.