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A life less or Heather Steele discovers how you can make a difference by volunteering abroad

Wendy Packer was 51 years old when she decided to leave her Birmingham school for two months to help refugee children in the Sudanese region of Khartoum. In 2006, Packer formed part of a group of eight teachers from around the UK, who were accompanied by representatives from the charity Education Action International. First established in 1923 as World University Service, Education Action International has a long history of working with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world. Their focus is on developing effective education for UK refugees and countries torn apart by war. In order to participate, Packer had to raise at least £5,000, with at least 25 per cent due before she embarked on the trip. Although she was

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fundraising with her school, she also wanted to see how much support she could get from the local community. “I carried on fundraising once I got back from Sudan and took it to local organisations,” she says. “I gave talks to The Rotary Club and secondary schools just to get other people interested, as I didn’t want it all to be on my shoulders. I went into the local community to see what people could do. We raised £7,500 in the end, which was fantastic.” Packer’s experiences have given her the travelling bug, and she plans to volunteer abroad again once she has retired. “My husband’s a qualified engineer and I’m a qualified teacher and I would like to investigate the Volunteering Service Organisation further,” she says. “They’re very keen to recruit people who are

freshly retired to go out and give the benefit of what skills they have in developing countries so it’s certainly something that I’d like to do in the future. They value people’s experience and appreciate that you may have finished your career in this country, but you can put those skills to good use in retirement. I think that’s something many people feel they achieve; even though they’ve kind of given up on paid work, they still have a lot to give.” Whatever your reasons for wanting to volunteer abroad, whether it is for charity, for the travelling or to do something valuable, Packer has one thing to say. “It’s just an amazing experience. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and I feel so glad I was able to have that opportunity.”

Photo: CP

Wendy Packer


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