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"You leave expecting to change Africa but you come back knowing it is Africa that has changed you"

Laura in BotswanaLaura Dignan, 20 and from Birmingham, spent her summer holidays volunteering with Skillshare International in Botswana.  Currently studying English and Politics at The University of Leicester, Laura was unsure about the career path to follow after graduation.  Her three-month placement at WoMen Against Rape, a human rights organisation in Maun, gave Laura clarity and inspired her to focus on a career in social work after her degree.  She now hopes to start a Master's degree in Social Work when she graduates.

Laura's time in Maun was shared between the office and volunteering out in the community. "The highlights of my days were unfailingly the afternoons, interaction with the community was when my passion for what we as WAR were doing was really ignited." Visits included taking the children from WAR's shelter out, helping at school clubs and working on student led activities related to Gender Based Violence, substance abuse and commitment to school work. "To see one child smile or witness the look of comprehension on a mother’s face as she is educated about the power she, as a woman, a wife and a mother holds is what made my experience of true value."

Laura reflected that it had always been her dream to volunteer in Africa and only through International Citizen Service could it have ever become a reality.  

"Sometimes I felt that I wasn’t making any contribution, but looking back I know that even if I didn’t save the world in three months I did make a real difference to at least a few people’s lives. It isn’t just the lives of other people that are changed either but my own, being an ICS volunteer allowed me to really get to know myself and find some direction in my life."

Laura returned to the UK in September 2011 and will be mentoring a teenager in care in Leicestershire for six months through a programme run by Leicestershire County Council.  

Read more about how Laura supported WAR's community programme, and why working with children in Botswana inspired her to pursue a career in social work. 

Laura volunteered with Skillshare International as part of the International Citizen Service initiative, funded by the Department for International Development. ICS gives volunteers aged 18-22 the opportunity to spend three life-changing months working on projects designed to bring about lasting change.