Wellingborough man spends Christmas helping people living in poverty in India

Robert Percy of Wellingborough
Robert Percy of Wellingborough

A volunteer gave up spending Christmas with his family to travel thousands of miles to support people living in poverty.

Robert Percy from Wellingborough has travelled more than 4,500 miles to help tackle poverty in India, where about a quarter of people live on less than £1 a day.

Robert spent Christmas in India

Robert spent Christmas in India

The 23-year-old is part of a team of young British and Indian volunteers on a project to empower women and youth and improve education in the community they are working for three months.

He went with international development organisation VSO as part of the UK government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

Robert is running educational sessions for children and young people, as well as working with women to teach them about their rights and try to end caste discrimination.

He said: “For me, this whole experience is about living in the moment, and this includes making the best of Christmas Day away from home.”

Robert is volunteering in India

Robert is volunteering in India

The volunteers had a day off on Christmas Day and were planning to cook a meal as a group and watch Love Actually.

Speaking about his experience, he said: “Everything here feels very different, but I’m gradually getting used to life in India.

“As the first group of ICS volunteers we get a lot of attention and it’s impossible to go anywhere without forming a following down the road or being invited to drink chai five times in as many minutes.

“Our community is so welcoming and inquisitive about what we’re doing, and people are eager to participate in our activities.

Robert Percy

Robert Percy

“We’re working with women, young people and children to improve the quality of the education they receive.

“We run a youth club to discuss social issues with young people, and assist women in the village with understanding their rights and provide information and support to help them learn about what opportunities are available for them.”

Robert is living with a family in India to fully immerse himself into the culture.

He said: “I’m living with a Muslim host family, so I was able to celebrate the Prophet Mohammed’s birthday with them and witnessed the whole community come together through huge communal meals and parades.

“There has also been a traditional Muslim wedding in my host home which went on for 10 days straight, with parties all night and over fifty people in the house every evening.

“I’ve grasped some simple Hindi phrases in my time here but mostly rely on alternative communication methods, which my family find hilarious.

“Even if we don’t fully understand one another it’s great entertainment.”

ICS volunteers spend three months in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, working on projects focusing on issues including sexual health, youth participation in politics, climate change and sustainable livelihoods.

When Robert returns to the UK, he and the other volunteers will complete an ‘Action at Home’ project so their new skills benefit their local communities.

Felicity Morgan, director of ICS at VSO, said: “Robert has joined thousands of other ICS volunteers who are doing amazing work around the world, every day.

“We’re incredibly proud that UK aid is supporting young Brits bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities.”