It was a welcome return home for one Banbury woman this Christmas after spending the last decade working around the world for charitable organisations.
Sarah Wragg began her charitable journey as a way to travel but it soon became a career.
Sarah said: “When I was 19 I decided I wanted to go travelling and as part of that I wanted to volunteer.
“I quickly realised that that wasn’t the best way to do things and I wanted to do a more professional volunteering experience so I qualified as a teacher, waited a few years and did my masters then did a volunteer placement, training teachers in Rwanda.”
The experience in Africa, which Sarah described as ‘wonderful’ was via the Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) charity in the role of ‘teaching methodology advisor’ and was initially a two year placement.
Sarah said: “It was training teachers rather than direct teaching. I would teach and they would observe or they would teach and I would observe. Rather than me teaching a specific class I would look after a district.”
Although Sarah, a former Warriner student, was training the teachers she herself learnt some life lessons which she has taken with her to subsequent roles across the globe.
Sarah said: “One of the things I did with VSO was with low cost no cost materials and how to make things using resources around you and I think that is probably one of the biggest learnings for me and something I have taken to most countries that I have been to and tried to start up.”
Sarah’s work with charitable organisations, such as Save the Children and currently International Rescue Committee, IRC, has taken her to some less than salubrious locations such as Kabul in Afghanistan and Somalia, but her experiences have always been positive, if not far from our norms.
Sarah said: “In the end it feels normal although I think maybe I have lost the idea of what normal is a little bit.”
Sarah has now found her ‘forever home charity’, the IRC, and is working in Tanzania whilst simultaneously studying for her doctorate in education. Despite the itinerant nature of her work, however, she sees no end in sight.
Sarah said: “I have an incredible group of friends from Banbury, people I went to school with. Also I have made some incredible friends doing what I do that understand what it is that I do and understand the challenges and the triumphs that come with that.”
The Internet allows instant communication and access to news and entertainment from the Uk but there is one thing from home Sarah still misses.
“Every year my dad makes me a Christmas cake and posts it to where I am.”
Although Sarah’s main responsibilities with the IRC in Tanzania lie in an educational role, the charity carries out a whole host of other community functions.
For over half a century, Tanzania has been a country of asylum, hosting one of the largest refugee populations in Africa. The IRC provides vital support as Tanzania’s government copes with the latest influx of refugees from Burundi.
Tanzania has one of Africa’s fastest growing economies and populations but the country is not without its challenges.
Vulnerable populations, especially those affected by crisis, still lack access to basic services, unemployment is growing faster than jobs are created, and social services are subpar.
Despite these challenges, Tanzania’s borders remain open to refugees. The IRC focuses its efforts in the Kigoma, Dar es Salaam and Katavi/Rukwa regions.
They provide emergency relief; ensuring vulnerable refugee children have access to health care and safe spaces to play.
They work with leaders of refugee communities to prevent violence against women, offer education to young refugees about reproductive health and HIV/AIDs.
Support asylum seekers and refugees with healthcare, shelter, food and water and protection services at a transit centre in Kigoma.
At the end of November the charity launched Rescue Gifts, a site where alternative Christmas or birthday gifts can be bought that will go towards the many IRC projects.
Prices range from around £14 to over £100 and gifts include; new born baby clothes, counselling sessions, emergency survival kits and medical equipment.