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Young volunteer spends Christmas 4,500 miles from home supporting people living in poverty

Melissa Cuss of Lowestoft spent Christmas Day volunteering on a project in Nepal. Picture: Courtesy of VSO.

Melissa Cuss of Lowestoft spent Christmas Day volunteering on a project in Nepal. Picture: Courtesy of VSO.

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A volunteer from Lowestoft gave up spending Christmas at home with family and friends to travel more than 4,500 miles to work on a project tackling poverty in Nepal.

Melissa Cuss of Lowestoft spent Christmas Day volunteering on a project in Nepal. Picture: Courtesy of VSO. Melissa Cuss of Lowestoft spent Christmas Day volunteering on a project in Nepal. Picture: Courtesy of VSO.

Melissa Cuss, 22, joined a team of young British and Nepali volunteers on an education project which aims to keep children, particularly vulnerable girls, in school.

She travelled with international development organisation VSO as part of the UK government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, and has spent the festive season working with school children and community groups.

Miss Cuss said: “Normally on Christmas Day, I’d be surrounded by my little family – my mum, dad and my sister, Rochelle. We laugh, drink, eat and exchange presents. This is the first time I’ve been away for Christmas and I have mixed emotions. I will miss my family but I’m experiencing something new that I wouldn’t get at home.

“I’m working on an education project here in Nepal, which is important to me because I know how fundamental good schooling is. Anything I can do to help the schools is great. The team want to make our time here sustainable. As for the changes we make, such as to infrastructure or ways of teaching – we want to make sure they’re carried on once we leave.”

Miss Cuss is living with a local family in order to fully immerse herself into the culture and to better understand the challenges faced by the community.

She said: “Initially there definitely was a culture shock. But once you get used to cold showers and the rice, it’s really okay. The Nepali people make you feel so welcome. And my host family are lovely.”

As one of the world’s poorest countries, millions of Nepali people are still recovering from a series of devastating earthquakes in 2015.

ICS volunteers spend three months in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, working on projects that focus on issues ranging from sexual health and youth participation in politics, to climate change and sustainable livelihoods.

On return to the UK, Miss Cuss and the other volunteers will complete an ‘Action At Home’ project, ensuring that their new skills also benefit their local communities.

To find out more about ICS or to apply, visit www.volunteerics.org

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