This week is national Volunteers' Week - a chance to celebrate the achievements and dedication of volunteers from around the UK.
Last month I spent a week working with 21 ActionAid volunteers from Turner Broadcasting in Mozambique. They gave up their time to build a library for a secondary school in the town of Marracuene.
Education in Mozambique
Half of Mozambique’s population live below the poverty line, and whilst progress is being made in education, nearly 50% of women are illiterate.
Books are vital to securing an education in Mozambique - the reality is that without access to books, children often drop out of school or achieve poor grades in their exams. There is no library in Marracuene, meaning children are forced to travel to the nearest overcrowded library in Maputo. Parents are unable to cover the travel costs and the walk is nearly six hours long.
Welcomed by the community
When we arrived, the welcome we received was incredible. Hundreds of students and community members came to greet us, and there was music, dancing, speeches and a traditional African ground-blessing ritual.
Getting our hands dirty
We spent five days working in the heat, digging, transporting materials, mixing cement and laying bricks which will form the foundations of the library. There was no machinery to make the job easier. We spent many hours mixing cement by hand.
Throughout the experience, we made many friends. The local children loved visiting us on site, practising their English and playing games with us when we were taking breaks. They were keen to help too by clearing litter from the playground.
Understanding the impact
The library will be used by all the schools in the district and the community. We met with a local women’s group – made up of determined, ambitious and passionate women who are only now receiving an education. Up until now they have gone through life unable to read, write or even count.
Learning these vital life skills has changed their lives. Now they can count money to buy food for their family. The library will be stocked with a wide range of books that will help these women continue their education and be in a better position to lift themselves out of poverty.
A life-changing experience
Do you want to volunteer with us too?