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UK charity: 'We don't pity Africans, we empower them'

HELPING HAND: Children from an orphanage in Botawana reap the benefits of Project Volunteer

VOLUNTEERS FROM around the world will brave the Kalahari Desert this November to deliver a programme to aid and empower orphans in Botswana.

In addition to building houses and wells, Project Volunteer gives the children, whose parents died of HIV, the opportunity to learn skills such as computing and photography and supports them with core subjects such as maths and English.

The brainchild of UK-based business development manager David Villa-Clarke, the scheme also offers a range of activities such as arts and crafts, cooking, music, film nights and swimming lessons.

One of the unique qualities of the scheme is that it is completely volunteer-based.

GIVING BACK: David Villa-Clarke (front) with a team of volunteers

“Nobody takes money from it. Everyone who works for the charity are volunteers, and all the material we use are borrowed from somewhere,” Villa-Clarke explained.

The 46-year-old has worked with young people and charities since his sister died of leukaemia aged 16. He started Project Volunteer seven years ago after becoming disillusioned with the way other organisations “waste money on large salaries and promotions”.

The east London-born humanitarian said the scheme is having impact because it “does not look at the children as poor little black Africans” but “as people”.

He added: “When I hear that our children are winning scholarships to South Africa’s top private schools, I know that they are being empowered.”

Volunteer Dexter Dash described the experience as “extraordinary”. He said: “There are numerous success stories [such as] children who leave the orphanage for university or professional careers.”

Motshwari Kitso, national director of NGO SOS Children Villages which partners with Project Volunteer, praised the team for building a sports programme and constructing a borehole to give a village water supply.

He told The Voice: “The children have found big brothers and sisters whom they can relate to with ease and confidence.”

Katie Jackson, who has been on two trips, referred to the programme as “life-changing”.

She said: “The most memorable comment made to me [by the children], is that we will never know how much it means for them to know that people thousands of miles away think about them, care about them and take time to come and see them.”

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