As one of the expert volunteers making a lasting difference to people in countries far worse off, Bill is worried that people in the UK only get to hear about what’s wrong with the British commitment to international development. He explains the difference he’s seen it make with his own eyes:
UK Aid transforms lives, often saves lives, and builds bridges between peoples at a time when the world sometimes seems to be becoming a less welcoming place.
"This is my fourth volunteering assignment in eight years. I’m often asked by family or friends why I do it, particularly when they hear that I’ll be living and working in countries where everyday life can be difficult, perhaps even dangerous.
"To be honest there are times when I ask myself that same question. But the answer is that I volunteer because it’s worth doing.
"I began my working life as an engineer, and after 20 years or so spent with the likes of GEC and Plessey I then spent another 20 years working for the NHS. A chance conversation with a friend who’d recently returned from a year’s VSO placement in Malawi sparked my interest in volunteering, and a few months later I was on my way to Cameroon."
Seeking justice for victims of violence
"Here in Pakistan I’m supporting a local organisation that’s working to encourage greater public accountability of the police, and in particular of the way the police support women who suffer gender-based violence.
"Victims of gender-based violence in any country who look to the police for support should be treated with respect and sensitivity, but unfortunately here in Pakistan this often doesn’t happen.
"The police here are doing a difficult and often-dangerous job. They’re overworked and under-resourced, have little training or support, and local political interference is the norm."
UK Aid supports survivors
"A woman turning to the police for support can find herself further abused, or simply held while her husband or family are sent for to take her home, so it’s no surprise that the police are seen by many women here as a last resort.
"Rozan, the organisation that I’m working with here, aims to change that. In the longer term their work will make a difference to the lives of thousands of women and their families who are victims of this abuse in all of its many forms, including forced and child marriages and so-called “honour killings”. And their work is being supported by UK Aid.
"Each of my four placements with VSO has allowed me to see at first hand the real difference that UK Aid can make for people who because of natural disaster, lack of opportunity, poverty or disability, haven’t been as fortunate as I have."
Our investment in positive change that lasts
"In Cameroon I was part of a UK Aid funded project that supported widowed HIV positive mothers no longer well enough to work in the fields to come together and form small cooperative businesses. They might rear poultry or produce palm oil, for example.
"The project may have ended but many of these small enterprises continue, and have given women like Ma Pauline, a widowed HIV positive mother living alone with her four children in the remote village of Messi, a future they wouldn’t otherwise have had."
From Cameroon to India
Each of my four placements with VSO has allowed me to see at first hand the real difference that UK Aid can make for people who because of natural disaster, lack of opportunity, poverty or disability, haven’t been as fortunate as I have.
"In West Bengal disabled people can’t access their government benefits unless a doctor first confirms the extent of their disability.
"But many disabled people and their families didn’t know what these benefits were, didn’t have the literacy skills to fill in the forms required to access them, or have the money needed to travel to a doctor or a hospital for a medical examination.
"There I was part of a UK-funded initiative led by VSO that paired disabled people and their families with volunteers from within their own communities, who were trained to guide and support their disabled “partners” in understanding and accessing their rights, and in advocating for fairer treatment.
"In Laos UK Aid supported young people from remote and disadvantaged communities in acquiring the skills needed to organise local volunteer-led projects in their own villages, and then to share these skills with others to allow them to do the same.
UK Aid transforms lives and builds bridges
"I know from these experiences, and from the similar experiences of the many volunteers that I’ve worked with, that UK Aid works.
"UK Aid transforms lives, often saves lives, and builds bridges between peoples at a time when the world sometimes seems to be becoming a less welcoming place."
"It’s not a perfect system, and getting support to those who need it most often means dealing with the likes of suspicious officials, corruption, poor healthcare, unreliable or non-existent drinking water and electricity. But these are the realities that the people that UK Aid aims to help are facing every day.
"Supporting people who for whatever reason are less fortunate is an investment in a better, fairer world, better for us and better for our children. That’s what UK Aid aims to do, and in my experience it’s succeeding."
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