A St Albans woman will set off on a 10 week trip today to help tackle poverty in El Salvador.
Rachel Stevenson, 24, has gained a place on the International Citizen Service (ICS) government-funded programme that enables 18-25 year olds to volunteer overseas.
The Bernard Street resident will spend her time with nine other British volunteers and volunteers from a local El Salvadorian community, helping to tackle poverty through development and environmental projects.
She said: "Whilst I was at university I knew I wanted to do some more travelling and volunteering, which is why I applied through Progressio for a place on their ICS programme. Progressio’s focus on people powered development really appealed to me and fitted in with my values.
"I also think it's a really good way of volunteering as it's not a typical commercial gap year trip, but it’s actually government-funded. It's difficult to get away from the image that volunteering abroad is often quite patronising towards people from developing countries.
"I believe volunteering should be about engaging with the community, learning from each other and completely immersing yourself in the work and culture."
Current reports about the Chaparrastique Volcano currently active in the Usulután region, where Rachel will be volunteering, hasn’t put her off.
Having travelled to Latin America before, she said she is not fazed by the recent volcanic activity in the area.
She said: "To be honest, I haven’t really worried about it that much. When I was in Guatemala you could see an active volcano spurting smoke from the town, so I guess it will be ok."
The ex-Beaumont school pupil has organised a number of fundraising events including a car boot sale, cupcake sale and cooking for a dinner party for eight people over the festive period, to reach her fundraising target of more than £800 for Progressio before her departure date today.
Rachel has achieved her fundraising goal, raising a total of £804 by holding a car boot sale, cupcake sale, and cooking for a dinner party of eight people over the Christmas period.
When Rachel gets back from El Salvador in March, she said she hopes to gain some more experience with a development charity or organisation so that she can eventually embark on a career within the development sector.
She will also take part in an Action at Home project which will ensure her new found skills are used to help and benefit local communities here in the UK.