African journey inspires poverty fight
WHEN her mum suggested some volunteer work to complement her university studies, Warwick’s Jess Dight took her advice to heart.
She went to Africa.
That was in 2008, and the four-week stay building mud huts in Zambia changed her life forever.
“When you set foot in Africa it changes you, and you can’t walk away,” Ms Dight said.
She returned home a little wiser about the world and a little less settled in her hometown.
“You live with so much less over there; you adapt and you realise you don’t need much to be happy,” she said.
Inspired by her first trip she put her zoology studies on hold to spend last year working with the poorest of the poor in an African school.
“Initially I thought I was going over to work in admin, but I ended up being the school’s purchasing officer,” Ms Dight said.
It was a daunting role considering she didn’t speak Swahili and her new position involved buying the weekly fuel for the school’s 20 buses, along with everything from pencils to potatoes.
“There wasn’t a general store, so you had to track down what you needed and then bargain for it,” Ms Dight said.
But it became a job she relished.
“I loved working there; the kids, the people were amazing,” Ms Dight said.
“Some are in wheelchairs or have lost limbs, others have lost loved ones to HIV Aids, but they still manage to find hope and happiness.”
When she returned home late last year it was with a mission to make change.
This month she became one of a 1000 young Australians selected to lead a national campaign against poverty.
On May 8 she will leave Brisbane as part of a week-long Make Poverty History road trip, which will converge on Canberra from May 12 to 14.
The campaign will pressure the Federal Government to commit to future aid contributions.
For Ms Dight the campaign represents an opportunity to encourage Australians to help third world countries like Africa.
“I believe Australia should do its fair share by investing 70 cents from every $100 of our national income in effective aid solutions,” she said.