A STUDENT from Renfrewshire has told how a volunteering trip to Nigeria changed her view of the world and gave her fresh confidence to make a difference to people’s lives.

Katie Heywood travelled to Africa with international development organisation VSO as part of the UK Government-funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

The 21-year-old Inchinnan woman stayed with a local host family for 10 weeks while she worked alongside young volunteers from Nigeria and the UK on a sustainable development project.

Katie told The Gazette: “Nigeria was a beautiful experience.

“I was fully immersed into the community and could gain a better understanding of the challenges people there face.

“The people really celebrated our presence and it was incredible working alongside many different personalities – from the family who took me in and cared for me to the youths of the community who became so eager to learn.

“You gain a whole new side of yourself from the wonderful people around you. They teach you about yourself more than you realise at the time.

“The biggest achievement for myself throughout the placement was definitely my growth in confidence.”

Katie is now using the skills she developed in Nigeria to carry out a key part of the ICS programme back home in Inchinnan.

The Action at Home project means UK communities benefit directly from the experiences of ICS helpers.

Katie said: “People shouldn’t suffer the way they do and so, in my Action at Home, I aim to raise awareness and volunteer with charities that lift that burden from those who need it.”

Katie, who is studying tourism management at the University of the West of Scotland in Paisley, is keen to highlight the key role young people can play in changing things for the better.

“Young people are the key to making positive changes for the future,” she said. “Not only are you benefitting a community but you’ll see yourself and life through a whole new set of eyes.”

Felicity Morgan, director of ICS, described Katie’s efforts as “inspirational.”

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

Read all the latest from Renfrewshire and beyond