Meet the UK woman helping to fight poverty in Tanzania

14May 2019
The Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Meet the UK woman helping to fight poverty in Tanzania

A young Gloucester woman has opened up about her 'incredible and extremely humbling' time fighting poverty overseas.

Shilan Keskin, 24

Shilan Keskin, 24, travelled to Tanzania in September 2018, where she worked alongside other young volunteers from Tanzania and the UK.

Living with a local host family she helped teach local young people 'basic CV writing' and 'presentation skills'.

Shilan took part in the project with international development organisation VSO, as part of the UK government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

She said: "Young people in Zanzibar face an issue that most can relate to globally - unemployment.

"With a lack of proper career systems in place, and an education system that fails to provide basic skills such as CV writing and presentation skills, the youth are left stuck in a world that they can see is constantly changing."

The project Shilan took part in aimed to 'empower' the young people by teaching them the necessary employment and entrepreneurship skills.

Talking about the emotional impact of the trip she said: "I had an incredible and extremely humbling time in Zanzibar, and I really felt that our project was making a difference in the community.

"Skills and facilities that we have so readily available and take for granted, made a real impact in the community's lives.

"There were people, who at the start, would be hesitant to speak a word of English, let alone stand in front of a class to present.

"By the end of the ten weeks, they were helping us lead the workshops, and getting job offers at huge Dar es Salaam based organisations (such as the BBC).

"That was one of my biggest achievements.

"Experiencing the culture and lifestyle of the people, and making friends every day despite the cultural differences and language barriers, was one of the most eye opening experiences of my life.

"I came back with a fuller heart and a drive to do more in my own community, here."

Upon their return to the UK, all ICS volunteers undertake an ‘Action At Home’ project, ensuring that their new skills also benefit their local communities. More than 15,000 young people from the UK have participated on the programme since 2011.

Shilan said: "My ICS placement was a real eye opener, so I have been working with the local youth and mentoring young people within my own family.

"I also noticed how sustainable food consumption was in Tanzania, and so I have been raising awareness within the community and online about strategies and ways of reducing your general waste (food and other), and recycling what you don't use.

"This VSO ICS has reminded me of what I really want to do in the future.

"Previously, I had doubts about the impact that I could have. Now I know that I want to do something to support people who are struggling, and I have always had a passion for psychology, so I have decided to continue to pursue a career in Clinical Psychology.

"A career that I can use to help young people who are struggling in contexts and cultures all around the world.

"I think it’s so important that young people get involved in projects like this – more than half the world’s population is under 25, so we’re the ones with the power to change things! I’d really encourage other young people to think about applying for ICS. You won't regret it."