Market Drayton volunteer's life-changing Tanzania trip

A 21-year-old Market Drayton man says his life was transformed by a three-month volunteering stint in Tanzania, and encourages anyone feeling stuck to push their own boundaries.

William Falcus had no direction in his life and worried about his future, until earlier this year when he found an advert that sparked his imagination.

Mr Falcus said: "I'm 21 years old, and I worked and for now still work as a tyre-fitter for my family business Tyreworks in Market Drayton, and also as a youth worker two evenings a week at the Market Drayton youth club.

"It was while searching on the internet for a cheap escape from Market Drayton that I discovered ICS, an organisation that works alongside sustainable development charities like Raleigh International, VSO and Restless Development – charities that rely on young volunteers to deliver their projects in developing countries.

"It was three months in Tanzania with a load of strangers and I needed to fund-raise £800 to take part and that was all I knew."

He raised money with competitions, running the Market Drayton 10k and even a sponsored skydive. He surpassed the £800 target and raised a total of £1,250 in time.

"Before I knew it, it was time to fly to Tanzania. I flew out with around 50 volunteers from the UK and I knew that we would be split up and sent to work in six poor villages in Tanzania dotted around the country, and teamed up with an equal number of Tanzanian volunteers.

"We were assigned into our 'echo groups' and sent by minibus to our village.

"We drove for three hours on long straight roads and passed through the national park where we saw lots of giraffes, zebras and gazelles, and beautiful mountains and scenery, then we turned off onto a dirt track which we remained on for a further four hours.

"It was a rickety old beaten track, I thought the doors were going to fall off the minibus. But it hit home to me how remote and cut off the place we were going was, and how difficult it must be to get resources out to them. It was a village called Madizini high in the mountains."

Madizini, where William stayed

William was paired with a Tanzanian volunteer named David, and the two were assigned to a host family consisting of a 'mama', 'baba' and three boys aged 17, 11 and six. The patriarch was a self-employed bean farmer and the family lived in a brick hut, and used a communal tap 10 minutes' walk away.

But their limited means didn't inspire pity in William. In fact, it had the opposite effect.

"I like many had a misconstrued idea about poverty from what I had seen on TV and thought that I was going to be feeling really sorry for these people, and that the living conditions were going to be really dirty and that they would all be really miserable, but that view is totally wrong.

"Of course there is the dark side of having practically no access to healthcare and being unable to access education, but I didn't feel sorry for them at all and they would not appreciate my pity.

"I'm so glad I embraced all aspects of the village life and had this experience and was able to live as one of these people for three months.

"Our job was to recruit aspiring entrepreneurs to attend our classes where we would deliver to them a syllabus of business and entrepreneurship skills and knowledge provided to us by Raleigh Tanzania, and prepare those people to pitch for a grant from Raleigh to start their business, or failing that apply for government loans.

"42 entrepreneurs turned up to our class and over the next 10 weeks we worked with them to develop their business ideas, create business models, teach them about operating and capital costs and cash flow and give them the practical skills and knowledge they need to make their business a success.

William with some of his hosts

"At the end of the 10 weeks, 10 businesses were successful in securing a grant from Raleigh, which was a share of 4,000,000 Tanzanian shillings.

"We took our entrepreneurs to the nearest big town, Kilosa, to buy all the things they needed to start their new businesses and it was so incredibly rewarding to see how happy and grateful they all were and how our hard work had paid off.

"Eventually though we had to leave the village to return to the UK and this was very difficult and emotional indeed. The most incredible, rewarding, eye-opening, enlightening, life changing experience of my life was over. I had made the most amazing friends from the UK and from Tanzania and we will keep in touch forever."

Now William has a message for any young people who find themselves in the position he was in before he left Market Drayton.

"You don't need to have experienced anything like this before, it doesn't matter what your background may be and it doesn't cost you a penny – I truly believe the world can be a better place simply if more people could have these types of experiences.

"You only have one life and it is short and precious so you must make the most of it and experience all you can, and fill it with positive and worthwhile things and leave your footprint, and take care of your planet so that your children and future generations can have the same and even better opportunities."

William with some of the Tanzanian children he befriended

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