A former Black Cats stopper is aiming to provide a safe pair of hands as she heads to Africa to help vulnerable children improve their lives.
Goalkeeper Helen Alderson, 27, will be jetting off to Ghana this month to undertake work surrounding human rights in rural areas after being inspired by a friend who did a similar programme.
She will be working for a team with the International Citizen Service while on the continent.
For the ex-Sunderland Ladies player, who currently represents Durham Women in the FA Women’s Super League, it means having to put her football career on the back burner for now.
Speaking about her decision, Helen, who lives in High Barnes in Sunderland, said: “I always wanted to do some travelling, but I wasn’t exactly sure what.
“My friend was doing something similar with the International Citizen Service in Tanzania and it seemed like a really good way to do it.” The move represents a big change for Helen, who will be swapping her part-time football career and full-time career as a charity fundraiser for three months of voluntary work.
But, while the goalkeeper admits it will be a big change, it’s an experience she is relishing.
“I can’t imagine what to expect because I know it will be a totally different way of life to what I’m used to,” she added.
“I’d imagine that a lot of things we take for granted over here won’t be available in Ghana so I think it’ll be an eye-opening experience.”
Kerry Jones Kensah, director of international programmes at the ICS, is hopeful that others in the North East will follow Helen’s lead and get involved.
“We’re delighted that Helen is joining our team of International Citizen Service volunteers in Ghana,” she said.
“Helen will work with a team of young people from the UK and Ghana on a project to give vulnerable and street children access to skills training and education – vital to help them earn a living and play a positive role in their communities.
“ICS is open to all 18 to 25-year-olds in the UK.
“You don’t need skills, cash or qualification, just the desire to make a difference.
“I hope more young people from the North East will be inspired to follow in Helen’s footsteps.”
Felicity Morgan, director of ICS at Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO), said: “ICS volunteers like Helen do amazing work around the world, every day.
“Our volunteers have helped promote children’s rights in Nigeria, campaign against child marriage in Bangladesh and bring safe drinking water to communities in Nepal.
“As an organisation working on the frontline against poverty VSO see how people across Britain play an important role in delivering UK aid; from the NHS and Army helping end the Ebola crisis, to the millions who donate, and the contribution we all make through taxes, together we are all making the world a fairer, safer place.”