Fresh from getting her A-level results earlier this month, one Stoke Newington School leaver is already preparing for another mammoth test – a 6,000-mile trip to Cambodia to volunteer in the fight against poverty.
In October, Lisa Sam Attafuah will travel to the Sambour District of the southeast Asian country – devastated by past wars and the murderous reign of the Khmer Rouge under dictator Pol Pot – as part of the Whitehall-funded International Citizen Service (ICS).
The programme is open to young people aged 18 to 25, and helps them build on skills such as teamwork, leadership and project management to prepare them for work – all while helping some of the planet’s poorest communities.
Cambodia, despite growth in recent years, is still one of the most poverty-stricken places in the world – the majority of its 16 million people work on farms, and many get by on less than a dollar a day.
Lisa, who will spend 10 weeks there alongside other volunteers from the UK and Cambodia, said: “I decided to get involved in ICS as it seemed like the ideal opportunity to make a real and long-lasting difference in the developing world whilst learning about life in a place with a completely different culture to my own.
“I’m sure this will be a life-changing experience and that I’ll gain valuable skills which will aid me in my future plans.”
A spokesperson for ICS said getting a placement “requires no experience or qualification, just the ambition to make a difference”, adding: “And as the programme is funded by the UK government, volunteers don’t pay a penny to take part.”
With her A-levels now out of the way, Lisa said: “It’s so easy to get caught up in school-related stresses and forget that not everyone in the world is given the chance to decide on what they want to do in the future, let alone have the opportunity to travel the world.”
She says she was drawn to ICS because it is “well-organised” and aimed at people who don’t necessarily have experience in working overseas.
She added: “I’m certain that it will be a very enriching experience. I can’t wait to meet my Cambodian host family and the other volunteers who will be involved in this education project.
“Running activities within schools and the community is something I’m very excited about, and I’m glad that I will be able to contribute to helping Cambodians in Sambour gain the relevant skills and education required for them to have more control over their futures.
“I also can’t wait to attempt learning a bit of Khmer, the official language in Cambodia.”
Lisa is one of the thousands who will be participating with ICS this year, and the scheme has helped over 17,000 youngsters to volunteer overseas since 2012.
ICS director Felicity Morgan said: “All our projects are part of properly planned, long-term development programmes, with volunteer safety a priority.
“Our volunteers can be sure that they’re contributing towards tackling global poverty and supporting people living on the margins of society.”
She added: “As an organisation working on the frontline against poverty, we see how people across Britain play an important role in delivering UK aid.
“From the NHS and Army helping to end the Ebola crisis, to the millions who donate, and the contribution we all make through taxes, together we are all making the world a fairer, safer place.”
ICS placements are available for departure from January 2019, and 18 to 25-year-olds from Hackney are encouraged to apply.
To find out more, please visit volunteerics.org