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Last Updated: Monday July 10 2006 13:15 GMT

Working as a volunteer in Africa

For the last few months Emma been working as a volunteer in Kenya.

For the last three months she's been in Garissa in the north-eastern part of Kenya, working for the children's charity Unicef.

We ask the 23-year-old what it's like volunteering in another country.

How did you become a volunteer?

I was supposed to graduate from university last summer. It was the day of graduation and I had the gown and everything.

But to get on the United Nations volunteering programme I had to be a student, so with an hour to go before the ceremony, I delayed.

My parents were ok about it. So I jetted off to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.

What was your job out there?

At first I worked with the United Nations on a project called Habitat.

I was helping children and teenagers make sure their views were taken notice of.

I also tried to raise money for youth projects and groups. I had to write a lot of speeches.

I used to go to the slum areas. When I was there, I told some people I could teach so they asked me to come in every Friday to give lessons.

I was working in a community school with five year olds. It was good fun and I taught them to write letters. I got a lot of letters asking me to take them to England.

There were no toilets or computers in the slums - me and a group of friends started finding money to get some of these things. It's taken a while but so far it's all going to plan.

What did you do next?

Well next up I travelled to Garissa. When I'm here I look for stories to tell Unicef about what's happening here, and what needs to be done.

Why did you decide to volunteer?

I was finishing University and didn't know what to do. I've always been interested in things like this so decided to give it a go.

Why do you wear a headscarf?

I really wanted to fit in. I didn't want to be seen as a stranger here because I've got a different skin tone.

It means as well I don't get so much attention. I do think people here appreciate it and feel more comfortable.

I'm learning Swahili¿slowly. I really like the language- it's really easy to understand. It was important for me to learn it- people are impressed with even small phrases.

What will you remember most?

The memory I'll cherish is all the friends I've made. I've seen a completely different culture.

I also work as a volunteer in the local hospital - it's been one of the best bits.

It's also strange to see herds of camels running along the road. There's a real mix of people here: nomads and also people who live in houses and live more like we do.

Would you recommend volunteering?

Definitely. It gives you so many opportunities you wouldn't get otherwise. You get to see and learn so much.

I have loved being away but there are some things I've missed. I'm looking forward to eating bacon and cheese which you don't really get here and also having a bit more freedom. In some places you can't walk down the street by yourself at night.


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