For Matt Morrison, a placement in Burundi was the starting point on a journey that would see him studying development in India, supporting refugees in France and working with the homeless in his hometown of Watford.
Matt already had an interest in international development when he signed up to volunteer with Tearfund, but it was whilst on placement that he saw extreme poverty up close for the first time. “I went to Burundi in the summer before I started at university,” Matt explained. “One of the things my team worked no was an agricultural project with very poor rural communities in and around the town of Gitega. We worked alongside local people to support them in building kitchen gardens, which are essentially layered gardens shaped a bit like big wedding cakes! This is an effective way for families to become self-sufficient and grow crops without having to worry about land, as they can build these gardens right next to their house.”
Passing on knowledge
A highlight for Matt was discovering that these agricultural skills were being passed on.
“We returned to one of the villages to find that a local person we’d worked with had shown his neighbour how to create a kitchen garden, who’d then built one for himself. The great thing about this project was that we weren’t doing it on our own. Tearfund has links with local churches, and we worked with them to establish these projects. They already have a good understanding of community needs, and we knew that they’d ensure that people in the villages remained fully involved in managing the gardens when we left.”
Understanding development issues
Straight after returning from his placement, Matt went on to study international development and found himself regularly drawing upon his time in Burundi. He also had the opportunity to take an overseas module in India. “During my time at university I was able to use a lot of my experiences. Many of the modules were quite theory-based so it was great to have a practical understanding of how things really work at a local level,” said Matt.
Looking ahead to the future
After returning home Matt said that his placement has played a big part in his choices. “I think that having an understanding of the world we live in is so important for understanding ourselves. It puts everything into perspective and enables us to make choices that are not solely for our own benefit but also for other people. I may move into international development in the future, but at the moment I’m embracing the here and now. Tearfund placements make a positive difference for communities around the world and also for those who’d like to better understand global issues, enabling them to learn and grow from their experience.”
Tearfund placements offer once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience another culture, be challenged and develop transferable skills. For more information, please visit ‘Tearfund Go’ see Facebook TearfundGo or Instagram @TearfundGo.
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