After three months of voluntary work in South America, 18-year-old Elhussein Dalghous has finally returned to England.
The Leeds teenager had been working with the charity, International Service, for the past three months in a rural, economically deprived area of Bolivia alongside 19 other volunteers.
Based in the village of Jupapina, on the outskirts of La Paz, Elhussein was deployed in various roles including at the local zoo, a children’s club (Nuestro Espacio) and a junior football team.
His experiences have been ‘life changing’ and upon returning to the UK he has spoke of his delight at being able to complete the ‘amazing project’.
“I didn’t really know what to expect when I was going out there, but what I experienced was the best I could have ever wish for,” he said. “I learnt so many things that I can’t even explain.
“Since returning a few people have been asking me about the scheme and I have said the same to everyone of them that they should ‘all go for it’. It is a once in a lifetime experience and very beneficial.”
The former Roundhay School student has been involved with a number of volunteering projects in the past, including positions in Spain, but has never travelled to the South American continent.
This latest experience was much longer than anything the enthusiastic volunteer had been involved with before yet is something he would love to do again.
“There were a number of challenges which I had to overcome, a key one for me was to stop giving money to every poor person I saw on the street,” he explained.
“Likewise, to live with people for such a long time that I didn’t know, away from my family, and having to look after myself was also something I had to adapt to.
“It was challenging but it is also something I would jump at doing again.”
Amongst the roles Elhussein was deployed in was the job of helping to host afterschool clubs in two local villages, Jupapina and Mallasa.
Many families in the Bolivian villages have two jobs due to the low pay in the country meaning children are often left alone at home. The activities were set up to provide a safe haven for the youth after the school day had finished.
At the zoo, Elhussein was involved in a more manual role, helping maintain the grounds as well as building new cages and homes for the animals.
“There was always something to do in every place I volunteered because, at the zoo for example, they were very understaffed so appreciated all the help,” he said.
“With the charity work being in a poor country as well, I felt the work we were doing was more heartfelt which makes you feel like you are being more affective in the work you are doing.”
Elhussein was working alongside the UpClose Bolivia charity, a close affiliate with the International Service. Founded and run by a British family, it works closely with the local residents with the ambition to improve the local community.