A 21-year-old woman who travelled to Bangladesh to fight poverty helped create a 'safe space' for girls to enjoy sport.

Hazel Obua from Harrow Weald volunteered with the international development programme Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) in October 2018 as part of the government-funded International Citizen Service (ICS).

Hazel worked with volunteers from the UK and Bangladesh while living with a host family so she could immerse herself in the community and understand the challenges they face.

Hazel’s project in Mongla focused on governance and building bridges between the community and government officials. She worked with youth groups to increase community engagement and created informative handbooks to distribute to schools, youth clubs, government offices and local businesses.

Hazel’s other projects included sports sessions for girls due to the perception of sport as a male activity, which is not always considered culturally acceptable for women.

Hazel said: “In our team we were able to create a safe space for girls to learn about the physical and mental benefits of sport, and later had a sports day to get them engaged and they were very competitive and seemed to enjoy it. At the end we had a turn out of about 40 girls which was very encouraging.”

Hazel added: “I really recommend this program as it enables you to offer your knowledge and gives you flexibility to do what you want to help other people and challenges you to look at long term results. It also opens up your mind to different cultures and perspectives.”

Felicity Morgan, Director of ICS at VSO, said: “It’s really inspiring to hear about the fantastic work Hazel did on placement. We’re incredibly proud that UK aid is supporting young Brits to bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities.”

After return, ICS volunteers partake in the ‘Action at home’ programme to guarantee new skills will help local communities. Since 2011 more than 15,000 volunteers took part.

ICS is a UK aid funded scheme with volunteers aged 18 to 25 to end poverty in low income countries. The scheme is an opportunity for young people to earn new valuable skills and make a difference to the communities through long term projects.

Hazel will continue to volunteer for charities as since her arrival back home she decided to volunteer with ‘Crohn’s and Colitis UK’ to help spread awareness of inflammatory bowel disease.

To find out more about ICS or to apply, visit www.volunteerics.org.