A LLANDUDNO woman has returned home from a three month stint in post-earthquake Nepal.
Sophia Downham, from Llandudno, is now speaking out about her voluntary work in rural Nepal, where 40 per cent of the population live in poverty and communities are living in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake in April 2015 that claimed 8,000 lives, left more than 22,000 people injured, and 800,000 homes destroyed.
The 28-year-old, lived and worked in Ripthok, a small village in central Nepal.
She travelled with sustainable development charity Raleigh International, through the UK aid funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme and led a team on a project to improve living conditions and help people build sustainable incomes through farming, to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
The former Bath Spa University student lived with a local host family, delivered training on sustainable farming methods, and helped build Ripthok’s first tunnel farm, which will enable local farmers to grow crops all year round and guarantee a constant source of income for them and their families.
Sophia said: “Nepal was an experience unlike any other. When I first arrived on a pre-project visit, I was so taken aback. This was the first project of its kind in the area, and the community didn’t really understand why we were there, let alone wait with a warm welcome.
“The final morning when we left, we struggled to leave. It was my birthday and my host sister had made me a card the evening before. I had been frantically organising the team to leave and when Baini Alisha stepped out to present me with my card she had so lovingly made, I found myself suddenly overwhelmed.
“From that first day of feeling like I was attempting the impossible, to the final day, where I had gained a family, completed a successful project.”
Sophia raised £902.16, which will go towards ensuring communities in developing countries benefit from the work of future volunteers and plans, along with fellow volunteer Ffion Haf Thomas to put together a photo series and interviews conducted with the community and exhibit it at local venues.
She added: “We hope to start a wider conversation about what we can do to support other people.”
For more about ICS and how to apply, visit www.volunteerics.org