‘I decided to volunteer as I wanted to do something to help people less fortunate than me,’ she tells us. ‘I was at a stage in my career where I felt I could still get a good job when I returned to the UK, and I decided to rent my house out in order to pay my mortgage while I was away.
‘The real highlight for me was working with local women – they were so intelligent, but were illiterate because they hadn’t had access to education. When you empower people through sharing your knowledge and helping them to organise themselves, it’s amazing what can be achieved. Together we set up community savings schemes, which literally changed their lives.
‘I think it’s important to be financially prepared, so that you’re not worried about money while you’re away or rushing to find work when you return. The volunteer allowance provided by VSO only covers basic living costs, so you need to use your own money to travel and go on day trips in the surrounding area. Saving for your return before you even go takes the pressure off. It gives you more options when you arrive home and need time to readjust and think about what to do next. But the lessons I learned are invaluable to an employer – you become an expert on a country without even knowing it.’