Clydesdale teenager will volunteer in Africa

Shania Stokes from Carstairs Village, who is going to Africa to undertake voluntary work (Picture Sarah Peters.)
Shania Stokes from Carstairs Village, who is going to Africa to undertake voluntary work (Picture Sarah Peters.)

As a Lanark Grammar School pupil, Shania Stokes always looked forward to when it would be her turn to take part in its once-traditional sixth-year trip to Africa to give students the chance to do voluntary work there.

The Kirklands Road school, however, stopped those trips before she reached sixth year.

And now the Carstairs teenager is heading for Africa on her own to do four months of voluntary work among its poorest people.

Shania hopes eventually to become a doctor working in infectious diseases, and she expects to go to university next year to study biomedical science and then medicine.

With all that study potentially ahead of her, this is her only chance to go to Africa, she says.

“Lanark Grammar used to do the trip to South Africa, and from first year I was desperate to do that,” she said.

“And when you watch Comic Relief, it is always Africa you see, with celebrities going to help out there. I want to see it for myself and be able to help out in my own little way.

“I am setting out myself.”

The university clearing organisation gave her details of various volunteer projects, and Shania has chosen International Citizen Service, which works with the youth-led group Restless Development in Africa.

She could find herself building schools and wells, preserving wildlife, helping in education or even working in the health services in a country from Ghana to Zimbabwe.

“I wanted to see all aspects so I have gone for a volunteering programme with all these things in it,” she said.

“I chose Restless Development because it is very broad compared with some of the other organisations.”

Schoolfriends equally gutted when the grammar trips stopped and now starting studying at university might be envious of Shania taking off on her own to Africa, but she knows it will be difficult.

She does not expect luxury accommodation, and she has already been told she needs to take candles and matches for starters.

And she expects that when she does return, she will appreciate all she has at home.

Shania goes to London next month to find out more about her programme and meet others volunteering at the same time, although not necessarily in the same place, then she will fly out in February.

“I can’t wait,” she said. “I wish it was February already.”

Her mother Melanie is equally enthusiastic.

“I think it is an amazing opportunity, a brilliant opportunity for her,” she said.

Unlike some volunteer tourists asked for thousands of pounds, she has to raise only £800 beforehand as the programme is government-sponsored.

“I have to raise that so they can send more people like me and send vital supplies to these communities,” said the 18-year-old.

She has a GoFundme page for donations, but she has organised a hypnotism show too at Carstairs Community Centre on Friday, November 4, with Richard Nelson. Tickets for that are £10 from Shania on 0790 249 6795.