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Teaching Sierra Leone children to read and write after Ebola crisis so humbling for Glynn

By Claire McNeilly

A young Fermanagh man helping to rebuild Sierra Leone three years after the devastating Ebola outbreak has described the experience as "eye-widening".

Glynn Seymour is part of a group of British and Sierra Leonean volunteers tasked with helping locals as they seek work and rebuild their communities after the epidemic, which started on March 23, 2014.

The 23-year-old, from Ballinamallard, is based in one of the regions worst affected by the deadly virus.

He travelled to the country with international development organisation Y-Care International, as part of the UK aid-funded International Citizen Service volunteering programme.

"Ebola was a devastating, unwanted and destabilising disaster for the people of Sierra Leone," Glynn said.

"Communities are crying out for job opportunities, healthcare and education.

"I collaborate with volunteers to run workshops on skills training, to help young people realise the importance of skills and qualifications when entering employment and enterprise, and give them opportunities.

"The biggest success I've had was running workshops on education with underprivileged young people, helping them to read and write and make their own signature.

"Something I had previously taken for granted as simple is now a major focal point that I believe everyone should have the right to."

Ebola claimed the lives of almost 4,000 people in Sierra Leone, badly damaging the economy and increasing poverty levels.

Although the outbreak was declared over by the World Health Organisation more than six months ago, youth unemployment remains particularly high, which means people lack the income they need to rebuild and recover. Community tension has also increased, with children of victims and survivors experiencing physical and verbal abuse.

"Going to Sierra Leone has been an eye-widening experience," said Glynn.

"Seeing people lacking such basic commodities as clean water and flushing toilets makes me realise that people in the UK live in, by comparison, luxury. Providing aid to help cut this large gap and improve the standard of living in Sierra Leone is a worthy cause and helps solve social injustice and promote basic human rights.

"The International Citizen Service offers young people the chance to help solve these problems. I would definitely encourage other young people to think about applying."

Glynn and his fellow volunteers help young people overcome challenges by providing one-on-one training and mentoring, encouraging them to develop their employability skills and find work.

The volunteers also run health and hygiene sessions to raise awareness of how to prevent the spread of disease.

The International Citizen Service allows young people aged 18 to 25 from all over the UK to work on projects to improve health, education and livelihoods in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Since 2012, more than 230 youths from Northern Ireland have volunteered.

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