Wilford businesswoman Natasha Chadwick recently combined her love of travelling with her desire to make a difference to the lives of others by taking a sabbatical to go on a mission trip to Uganda.
As part of the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme – funded by the Department for International Development and delivered by the charity Restless Development – Natasha led a team of volunteers from Uganda and the UK to provide sexual health and reproductive rights education, and employability skills in rural communities.
Over half of Uganda’s population are under the age of 30 and the ICS programme aims to work with those young people to give them the skills to identify and tackle the development issues they face themselves.
Natasha told the Wire: “Providing education on sexual health and reproductive rights aims to reduce the number of young girls dropping out of school due to period poverty or teenage pregnancy, supporting out-of-school youth to set up their own business contributes to sustainable economic impact.
“Engaging community leaders in dialogue with young people about issues such as gender-based violence mean that the root causes of such issues can be addressed locally.”
Natasha lived with a host family in the parish of Kanjuki, Kayunga town, approximately 50km outside of Jinja town in eastern Uganda.
She threw herself into community life and when she wasn’t supporting her volunteers, she’d be found playing with her host sisters and brothers, or running sessions at her local church.
The programme brought its challenges. Natasha faced language barriers when communicating with local stakeholders and had to work hard to support her team to respect cultural differences in order to work effectively together.
Through the activities they delivered, the team are proud to have educated over 1,000 young people in schools, helped set-up several new businesses and tested over 350 people for HIV.
An intergenerational dialogue on the topic of gender-based violence sparked action in the community with local councillors and church leaders committing to take action to tackle this important issue.
Many of the Kayunga-Rooz have since gone onto secure jobs or set-up businesses of their own and all are continuing their citizenship activities which is an important part of the ICS programme once volunteers return home.
After completing ICS, Natasha was delighted to be invited to chair the board of directors at Mountain Shilo Preparatory School in Kanjuki.
Alongside her existing voluntary activity in the UK, Natasha is now working hard with the school leadership team to develop Mountain Shilo’s infrastructure to improve their pupil’s life chances.
“This was one of the best experiences of my life so far,” added Natasha. “I adore my host family and we’re still in touch today.
“Everyone in the village knew my name. I’m so proud of how my team developed and what we achieved together.”
Natasha is hosting an End of Summer Ball on Friday 27th September at Brewhouse & Kitchen to raise awareness of the issues faced in Uganda and to celebrate what she and her team achieved.
Tickets are £25 and the evening will include an inspiring talk, auction, live music and dancing. Tickets are available at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/end-of-summer-ball-tickets-65463845123.