Photos of the parliamentary event (click the speech bubble icon for captions)
A group of ten ICS volunteers met yesterday with the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State Stephen O’Brien MP to share with him their experiences of international development work.
Ahead of World Water Day on Thursday 22 March, the volunteers took the opportunity to raise the problem of water sustainability based on their first hand experiences in Peru, El Salvador and Malawi, where they had recently volunteered on an International Citizen Service programme funded by the UK Government and delivered by development agency Progressio.
The volunteers were warmly received by Stephen O’Brien who praised their contributions to tackling poverty saying: “Encouraging and supporting greater social action is one of the Coalition Government's top priorities. Our ICS volunteers are helping some of the world's poorest people, demonstrating motivation and commitment overseas and in their own communities. I'd like to recognise the value of the work they are doing and encourage them to build on their experience and continue as active global citizens.”
In response to the water challenges raised by the volunteers, Stephen O’Brien MP acknowledged the importance of ensuring everyone has fair and sustainable access to water saying: “there is no greater staple than water,” and stressed the importance of working with women and girls to achieve this.
The volunteers also had the opportunity to meet with some of their local MPs Paul Goggins, Norman Lamb, Pat McFadden and Andrew Rosindell and speak to them directly about the challenges of life in the water scarce communities they had visited.
Anna O’Flynn, 30, a group leader on the ICS programme, explained the challenges of life in a water scarce area like Villa El Salvador in Peru where she spent 10 weeks teaching English and promoting children’s rights.
“It dawned on me just how precious a resource water is when we asked for some water to wash paintbrushes,” describes Anna. “Our host had to go into a locked store room to access the tap and get us a single bucket of water.”
Dominic Smith, 22, who volunteered in Malawi described how the experience had changed his outlook on what was important in life. “Our idea of happiness changed. We realised that it’s not material things that makes you happy, but it’s relationships, family, friends and building strong communities.”
Afraa Ali, 21, and Ingrid Leduc, 23, gave presentations describing the impact of their experiences of delivering emergency food packages to people affected by Tropical Storm 12E shortly after arriving in El Salvador.
“You stop thinking of yourself in your bubble here and you become inspired to be a global citizen and be more active on the issues that are really important, like food security,” explained Afraa.
The volunteers’ will be campaigning for fair and sustainable access to water for the communities they spent time with overseas in the lead up to this year’s Rio+20 Summit. To find out more visit www.progressio.org.uk/waterproof
Photo: ICS volunteer Liam Hilton (right) meets Stephen O'Brien MP (left), Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State (© Layton Thompson/Progressio)