Government under fire for funding volunteering in Zimbabwe

By Andy Hillier, Third Sector Online, 16 March 2012

International Citizen Service participants have volunteered in Zimbabwe

International Citizen Service participants have volunteered in Zimbabwe

Peter Slowe of Projects Abroad says that the International Citizen Service is giving direct support to the Robert Mugabe regime

The government has been criticised for funding placements in Zimbabwe for young volunteers on its International Citizen Service.

Six medical students on the government-subsidised scheme were sent to Zimbabwe last year despite concerns about the political regime of President Robert Mugabe.

A spokeswoman for the Department for International Development, which is responsible for the scheme, said that it intended to send more young volunteers to the country this year.

The ICS programme will offer up to 7,000 subsided overseas volunteering placements to young adults aged between 18 and 22 over the next three years.

Peter Slowe, founder of Projects Abroad, a private company that runs volunteering programmes, said: "The government should not be paying for young people to go to Zimbabwe. It’s dangerous for the people involved and it also gives direct support to Mugabe’s brutal and corrupt dictatorship.

"The Mugabe regime uses this kind of ‘aid’ programme to mock the British government as weak and inept, and this is a potential propaganda coup for them. Let’s stop it now before people around the world think that we support the excesses of Mugabe’s government."

The DfID spokeswoman defended funding placements in Zimbabwe. "Volunteers in Zimbabwe worked with local medical students to improve mental health research and educational capacity for the people of Zimbabwe," she said. "Volunteer safety and security is our top priority for all ICS volunteers and every placement is continually assessed for risks."

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