A community-focused student at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has made a difference to the lives of people thousands of miles away after a volunteering trip to Africa.
BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing student, Ketran Eastham spent three weeks in Africa with the Volunteer Eco Student Abroad (VESA) charity. A volunteer travel organisation, they provide opportunities for people to undertake community-based volunteer activities.
The third year student heard about the opportunity during a first year lecture and spent two years saving, which allowed her to fund the experience in the summer before she began her final year. Ketran spent 12 days in St Lucia, South Africa; two days in Manzini, Swaziland and a week in Mozambique, where she visited Tofo and Bilenne.
Reflecting on the experience, she said: “It was the best experience of my life and has given me a totally new perspective on things back in the UK. Having witnessed the poverty and lack of opportunities available has made me realise, how fortunate I am to be living in the UK and to be receiving degree level education at UCLan.”
During her visit Ketran participated in a range of activities, including construction, conservation and education projects. She helped build a house for a family of eight who had previously lived in a small hut, taught English and maths in a local school and worked at two animal rehabilitation centres, for cheetahs and crocodiles. Having organised a number of fundraising gigs beforehand, Ketran was also able to donate £500, which was used to help an orphanage she volunteered at. With such a diverse experiences, the trip proved to be an invaluable learning experience.
“I learnt so much, particularly about African culture and being a student nurse I asked a lot of question about mental health care, which I discovered is pretty basic and poor.
“From a personal development perspective I learnt so much. I have always been quite shy and reserved but this trip has totally changed that. I’ve definitely learnt that if you put your mind to something you can achieve it and in that respect I have a totally new outlook on life.”
Ketran’s interest in volunteering stemmed from her involvement with UCLan’s Creative Communities Group (CCG), which aims to empower people, locally, nationally and internationally for positive change through volunteering and community engagement.
The mental health nursing student has worked with CCG for two years and helps run events, completes admin work and is also Director of Social Media. She is hopeful that her visit to Africa will benefit her work back in England.
Ketran added: “My time in Africa will definitely have an influence on my work with the CCG. It has made me a more confident individual and has improved my team working skills, both of which I think will be beneficial in my role with the CCG.”