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African trip is life-changer; Stirling graudate in Zambia.

Byline: WARREN HARDIE

A Stirling graduate has completed a 12-week mission to Zambia to highlight sexual health awareness.

Tanaka Musakambeva, 26, visited the landlocked African country in March with the Voluntary Service Overseas, a charity funded by the Department for International Development.

She worked within the group's health programme in the Samfya district, promoting awareness of sexual health issues including HIV, AIDS and teenage pregnancy.

During her time in Zambia, where she stayed from March until June, Tanaka lived with a family of three from the area.

The trip, funded by UK Aid, aimed to educate young people with the goal of helping them to make informed choices about sexual health.

According to UNICEF, three in 10 young women in Zambia have began bearing children, either having given birth already or carrying a child - with high rates of STDs and HIV.

Tanaka said: "By the time I arrived in Samfya, I already knew we had a lot of work to do with regards to raising awareness and sensitising the community - a daunting challenge that, although fraught with complications, I accepted with magnanimity and good grace."

She added: "The effects of poverty in these communities is at times harrowing and deeply traumatic: vulnerable teenagers who have dropped out of school as a result or pregnancy, and the difficulties associated with seeing families affected by HIV and AIDS."

Tanaka and other volunteers visited communities and schools in Samfya, carrying out workshops and education sessions, as well as community action days.

Zimbabwe-born Tanaka said she chose Zambia as it reminded her of her home country, where she lived until the age of 13.

It was in Zimbabwe, Tanaka said, that she saw "first-hand the effects of poverty", inspiring her to follow a career in international development.

Moving to Scotland at age 14 for a better life, Tanaka is now a British citizen and graduated from Stirling University in 2018 with a Masters in international conflict and cooperation.

As part of her placement, Tanaka helped to organise group sessions, primarily for children, involving presentations and role plays, as well as question and answer sessions with members of the community.

The group of volunteers also painted two 'Youth Friendly Spaces', areas where young people can go to discuss their issues, they also serve as a safe place for them to be during their spare time.

Through her Just-Giving page, Tanaka was able to raise PS1124 from the trip -104 per cent of her PS800 target goal, which will be used by the VSO to fund similar projects in the future.

On completing her trip, Tanaka commented: "I think it's safe to say my time in Samfya was a unique journey and a most rewarding experience. To state that this has been a life changing experience would be an understatement of massive proportions.

"Going to Samfya, I would never thought I would've learnt so much about myself, about international development and mostly about those that are in need the most."

CAPTION(S):

Challenge Tanaka took part in the Zambian trip with charity Voluntary Service Overseas

Visit Taneka and fellow volunteers with children

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Publication:Stirling Observer (Stirling, Scotland)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 11, 2019
Words:516
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