A woman from South Tyneside who spent three months doing volunteer work in Africa has won a national photograhpy award for charting the project in pictures.
Elizabeth Ascroft has been named as a winner in the of the ‘Voice’ category of the International Citizen Service (ICS) Photography Competition.
Elizabeth, 25, from Bede Burn Road, Jarrow, is a community engagement officer with the National Citizen Service, saw off competition from more than 300 photographers from 22 countries around the world to win the award.
She took her winning shot while volunteering in Zambia between September and December last year.
Elizabeth spent three months in Keembe working on a project to improve local young people’s knowledge of good sexual health, in particular HIV and respectful relationships in a Voluntary Services Overseas project staged through the Government-funded ICS programme.
She said: “The photo shows Grade 11 pupils taking part in our sexual harassment and early pregnancy campaign, which was aimed at opening up a conversation around underlying issues in the community.
“The young people we worked with in Keembe were passionate about getting their voices heard and performed poetry, music, directed theatre pieces and traditional dances to draw a big audience.
“I’ll never forget hearing those drums.”
She added: “As well as organising events like this we delivered lessons across three schools and the village clinic. We ran community events and set up a Youth Friendly Corner, where young people were able to come and learn about all sorts, discussing whatever questions they had with us in confidence.
“Lots of young people in Zambia’s rural villages have only had very limited sexual education because health services are so scarce so we tried to engage them as much as possible through fun activities.”
Elizabeth’s photo was chosen as the best in its category by a panel of three photography professionals after online voters helped choose the shortlist.
Elizabeth continued: “I love this photo because it reminds me that young people truly are the answer to creating social change.
“We worked in a community where we couldn’t move mountains or provide the ultimate answer for sustainable development in health education but, by working with these bright, engaged and enthusiastic young people, I was able to see the difference our efforts had made.”
Felicity Morgan, director of ICS at VSO, said: “Elizabeth’s photo invites you into the world of an international volunteer.
“Volunteering overseas isn’t just about travelling and experiencing new cultures, it’s about making a real difference to the community you’re in.”
Elizabeth’s image is now on display at Westminster Central Hall, London, and The exhibition will then go on a national tour around the UK.
To find out more about ICS, go to www.volunteerics.org