A teenager from Cardross, who recently spent 12 weeks volunteering in Cambodia, is planning to use the skills he developed overseas to support people back home who need help in the coronavirus pandemic.

Finlay Gray, 19, travelled to Cambodia with international development organisation VSO as part of the UK government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme.

He worked alongside young volunteers from Cambodia and the UK on a sustainable development project.

Finlay also lived with a local host family, so that he was fully immersed into the community and could gain a better understanding of the challenges faced by people living there.

He said: "Since returning home from my placement, I've wanted to spread awareness about the ICS programme and encourage other people to take part.

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"My experience away from home has made me want to help within my own community and I have volunteered with a local community programme to support those requiring assistance during the Covid-19 pandemic through the charity Cardross Cares."

Finlay, a former pupil of Lomond School in Helensburgh, raised £1,978 for VSO prior to the trip by organising several fun activities, including a 76-mile kayak and paddle the length of Loch Lomond and a cycle around the peninsula.

He said: “I loved my time in Cambodia.

"I think the highlight of the placement was was getting to teach the children new skills and seeing them improve week by week.

"I also loved the way we were embraced by our host families. They treated us like one of their own.

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"I shared my host home with two other Cambodian volunteers, I enjoyed learning about their language and culture and sharing mine with them.

Finlay said in Cheung Kreav, the rural community where he was based, many of the children don't complete school as they're required to work on the family farm or encouraged to seek employment as a means of supporting their families.

He said: "This interrupts education and stops many children acquiring basic literacy and numeracy.

"Our aim during the placement was to help improve the young people’s livelihood prospects post school by teaching them about entrepreneurship concepts and other key skills.”

ICS allows young people aged 18-25 to contribute to sustainable development projects in Africa and Asia.

The volunteers are placed on work towards achieving the United Nation's Global Goals, a set of development targets that nations across the world have to achieve by 2030.

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Finlay is now using the skills he developed overseas to carry out an ‘Action At Home’ project back in the UK.

This is a key part of the programme, and means that UK communities benefit directly from the experiences of ICS volunteers.

Finlay's experience within international development has influenced his future choices and has inspired him to embark on an international relations programme at St Andrews University.

Felicity Morgan, director of ICS, said: “It’s really inspiring to hear about the fantastic work Finlay is doing.

"We’re incredibly proud that UK aid is supporting young Brits to bring about positive change in some of the world’s poorest communities."

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