A CHARITY worker from Hartlepool has been raising awareness of the need for disabled sport in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Helen Jolly is working in Burkina Faso, West Africa, after she was awarded a placement on the International Citizen Service youth volunteering scheme for young people.
The programme gives people aged 18 to 25 the chance to live and work in developing countries and help fight against global poverty.
The three-month adventure, secured through York-based charity International Service, saw her volunteering with their partners Handicap Solidaire Burkina, a local organisation founded and staffed by disabled people.
It aims to increase the quality of life and standard of living for disabled people throughout the country, including through sport.
Helen, 23, said: “I decided to take part in the programme because I have always wanted to visit Africa and experience a new culture and to learn new skills.
“I was delighted with my placement because the prospect of getting involved in sport was something that I was very excited about and couldn’t wait to get stuck in.
“I have not been disappointed, it has been a privilege to watch and work with people with disabilities focus on a sport that they love and are passionate about.
“During my time here I’ve seen a beautiful country and the people are its greatest asset. We have been treated with respect, hospitality and warmth by everyone we have met.”
During her time there Helen and the other volunteers worked closely with the wheelchair basketball team and coaches to help them achieve their ambitions.
Part of that included holding an event in the capital Ouagadougou to raise awareness and advocacy for disabled sport and wheelchair basketball.
Helen, of the Hart Lane area of Hartlepool, added: “The day was a great success with a large number of locals and even the minister for sport attending.
“Sport has an amazing power to bring individuals and communities together, increase fitness and create social cohesion.”
Back home, Helen, who went to English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College, is a volunteer mentor for Barnardo’s services in Hartlepool and works for Hartlepool Special Needs Support Group as a support worker. l Find out how you can get involved with ICS at www.dfid.gov.uk/ics and www.ics-uk-org.uk