Horsham woman hopes to inspire others following life-changing project in India

Becky Abbott in India
Becky Abbott in India

Submitted by ex-Tanbridge House student Becky Abbott, 22, from Horsham

Having just returned from spending 10 weeks working on a project in Rural India I am really keen to spread the word of the ICS programme, especially with Raleigh International.

Becky Abbott in India

Becky Abbott in India

Raleigh hold an ‘International Citizenship Service’ (ICS) programme which runs 3 times a year, for 10 weeks each time, not only in India but also in Tanzania and Nicaragua.

This project is supported and funded by the government as progress towards the millennium development goals.

In preparation for the programme all participants are required to fundraise a minimum amount of £800, all other expenses are provided including flights, accommodation, vaccinations, food, in country travel and insurance.

To begin the application process for the ICS programme you have to fill out an online form and wait for the ICS team to invite you to a selection day.

There are a number of different programmes to choose from; Raleigh International is just 1 of 6. When completing the application you can select Raleigh ICS and the country of your choice as a preference.

The selection days for Raleigh ICS are held in London and any travel expenses are reimbursed.

This day involves team building activities with other applicants, a presentation giving more information on the programme and finally an interview.

Following the selection day you will hear back from Raleigh in regards to whether or not you have a place and which country they believe you would be best suited to.

Once you’re place is secure you will need to attend a training weekend, which will also be held in London and then finally you are free to begin fundraising your £800, before embarking on your adventure.

Upon arrival in India, a team of around 38 UK volunteers were all taken to Field base and for the first week we were given further training and finally our team and village allocations after meeting the Indian volunteers and being introduced to the rest of the Raleigh Field base team.

We would be divided into groups of 14 which would include 2 team leaders (1 Indian, 1 UK) and then 6 British volunteers and finally 6 Indian volunteers.

Our group was to be called ‘India Yankee One’ and the village we were allocated was called Hadya and located in the Karnataka State, Southern India.

The first few days in the village we all felt lost and incredibly out of our depths, nobody seemed to know what we were doing or where to start.

To be able to look back to the first few days having completed the project is completing amazing; we came such a long way together, through the good times, the bad times and everything in between.

Throughout our 10 weeks in Hadya we managed to complete 350 household surveys, hold 2 Health Camps, 1 vet camp, build 20 leech pit toilets, build a new water tank for the local school children, renovate the school toilets – including covering the open leech pit, adding roofs and fixing the toilet pans and pipes.

In addition to this we gave first aid training to over 250 villagers – which also included the production and distribution of our own hand made first aid manual written in both English and the local language.

We also held school lessons 3 times a week with standards 5-8 (ages 11-15) on lessons including hand washing, tooth brushing, diseases and a healthy diet.

We conducted health awareness classes to over 500 people, we painted the main school buildings, provided pre – construction and post – construction beneficiary training for all the villagers lucky enough to receive a toilet, going through why a toilet is so important, how to maintain your toilet and finally the health and financial benefits of using a toilet.

Finally we assessed the teeth of all the school children, recording any problems and arranged for a travelling treatment clinic to visit the school in September.

The time I spent in country went so unbelievably fast, I honestly can’t believe my time in India is complete.

The things we have achieved are beyond anything I could possibly have imagined. The Raleigh ICS programme is something I am incredibly proud to be part of and I would encourage as many people as possible to apply today.

I have written a blog entry for each of the weeks I was in country, so please visit this for more information: www.beckysbigadventure.blogspot.com!

This was the most challenging, rewarding 10 weeks of my life and my biggest question right now is when can I do it all over again. 10 weeks ago I arrived in India as a visitor, at the end of August I left Hadya as a villager, a place I learnt to call my home.

I hope my story will inspire many others in the future, ICS is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so don’t leave that application until tomorrow, apply today and maybe your adventure will start right here.