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Dereham teenager who travelled to Nepal returns home to make a difference in Norfolk

PUBLISHED: 11:41 01 May 2017

Jake Neal (centre), from Dereham, stands with the team of volunteers who helped to provide clean water to a rural community in Nepal. Picture: Jake Neal

Jake Neal (centre), from Dereham, stands with the team of volunteers who helped to provide clean water to a rural community in Nepal. Picture: Jake Neal

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A teenager from Dereham says he has been inspired to make a difference in his community after returning from a journey to the distant Himalayan nation of Nepal.

Jake with a Nepalese team member. Picture: Jake Neal.Jake with a Nepalese team member. Picture: Jake Neal.

Jake Neal, 19, recently arrived back in the UK after spending three months volunteering in Ikchung, Nepal, where he helped to provide clean water and sanitation to the rural community.

Now that he is home he says the life changing adventure has motivated him to help disadvantaged people in his own community by learning from some of the experiences he learnt while in the Himalayas.

Mr Neal said: “Since my return I’ve been inspired to volunteer locally. I have volunteered with Norwich International Youth Project (NIYP), an organisation that provides young and potentially vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers an environment to socialise and feel comfortable.

“The organisation provides food, support and education to help benefit young people throughout their integration into the UK and it makes vulnerable young people feel comfortable, just as the community of Ikchung made me and my team feel comfortable during my placement. This is just the first step to me becoming more active in my community, raising awareness and hopefully making a positive change in the world.”

During his time in Nepal, Mr Neal worked alongside Nepali volunteers to raise awareness about sanitation and hygiene in Ikchung. He also improved access to water by helping to build a filtration tank and a two-kilometre pipeline for the community.

Shortly after he returned to the UK the local head of the Water User Committee in Ikchung contacted the sustainable development charity, Raleigh International, to commend the team and inform them of how much better water access become thanks to the pipeline.

Mr Neal added: “After our first awareness raising event, I noticed our impact instantly. Two young girls advised me on the seven steps of hand washing before we ate in the evening, showing that they had learnt from our workshops. Hand washing can prevent so many avoidable diseases, so for them to be teaching me what they had learnt was incredibly moving, and reassuring to know anybody can make change, however great or small.”

Clean water in Nepal

Nepal is regarded as the poorest country in South Asia and one of the poorest nations in the world. Some of its most significant challenges relate to water scarcity, with many of its rural communities living far from water sources. According to data from the aid organisation, WaterAid, 2.3 million people don’t have access to safe water and nearly 600 children die every year due to poor sanitation and polluted water.

In 2014 a World Health Organisation report stated that the government hoped to provide access to clean water across the country by the end of 2017. But the problem worsened when a devastating earthquake hit the country in 2015 and left millions homeless.

The organisation Mr Neal volunteered with, Raleigh International, aims to help the rural communities affected by the earthquake and is part of the UK-funded International Citizen Service programme.

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