A NEWBURY woman is dedicating three months of her life to help raise awareness of HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases in Zambia.
Anna Rabinowitz is working alongside young Zambian and British volunteers in the African country to help deliver sex education classes at local schools and youth groups.
The 18-year-old is living with a local family and travelled to Zambia as part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, funded by UK Aid.
She is currently four weeks into the VSO project to improve knowledge and understanding of good sexual health and help combat the spread of infections.
“Coming to Zambia and seeing the challenges young people face here has made me realise how important it is that countries like the UK contribute to projects that fight poverty in developing countries,” she said.
“There are so many issues that affect people around the world – whether it’s sexual health, girls’ education or access to safe drinking water – and it’s great that ICS offers young people the chance to help solve these.”
More than 60 per cent of the population of Zambia live below the poverty line and the average life expectancy is just 62, nearly 20 years below the UK.
A total of 1.2m Zambians currently live with HIV, and there were 20,000 AIDS-related deaths in the country last year.
“During our training we heard a lot about the challenges facing the communities in the form of figures and case studies, but to see it first hand is another thing,” she said.
“The information we’re providing is pretty basic, but simply by combating the misinformation that already circulates this information can improve the lives of so many.
“What has particularly stood out for me has been the effect lack of reproductive knowledge has on the lives of adolescent girls.
“Simple messages such as how to use a condom, how HIV is transmitted and how to get safe abortions can prevent life-altering mistakes for these girls.”
ICS volunteers work alongside young local volunteers in some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and Latin America on issues like sexual health, education, women’s rights and economic empowerment.
The teenager applied to ICS because she wanted some experience in international development before going to university.
Before she left for Zambia, she raised £1,500 for VSO, which will go towards ensuring communities in developing countries benefit from the work of future volunteers.
As well as making a difference in some of the world’s poorest communities, ICS volunteers gain valuable skills and experience.
After returning to the UK on April 8, Anna will also take on an Action at Home project, ensuring that her new skills also benefit her local community.
Felicity Morgan, director of ICS at VSO, said: “ICS volunteers like Anna are doing amazing work around the world, every day.
“Our volunteers have helped promote children’s rights in Nigeria, campaigned against child marriage in Bangladesh and brought safe drinking water to communities in Nepal.
“We’re incredibly proud that UK Aid is supporting young Brits bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities.”