Published:
December 7, 2016
Burnham-On-Sea photographer wins international competition

A Burnham-On-Sea man has imprressed the judges of an international photography competition and been named the overall winner.

Greg Wallaker, 21, from Burnham-On-Sea, has been named the overall winner of the annual International Citizen Service (ICS) Photography Competition.

He saw off competition from more than 300 photographers from 23 countries around the world.

Greg took the winning shot, pictured below, while volunteering in Bangladesh from September to December last year.

He spent three months in Bangladesh, working on a project to help local people set up and grow their own businesses, and take better care of their health.

He travelled to Bangladesh with international development organisation VSO, through the UK Government funded ICS programme.

Greg told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "I’m delighted to have won! We were the first team of ICS volunteers to work in Dinajpur, so every obstacle seemed to be increased tenfold, but regardless of what was in our way the community were so eager to be part of it."

"I took the winning photo in a three-room school on the outskirts of a village we were working in. I was helping run a session about health and hygiene, keeping time, handing things out to the children and taking photos, trying to capture the focus and concentration in the kids' faces."

"Whilst the other volunteers set up for their next lesson the students started chatting away to each other. I shot this photo then, but the girl you see in the photo looked straight into the camera at the split second I took it, then turned away again. I thought it was pure luck that she'd glanced my way at that moment!"

Greg’s photo was chosen as the overall winner of the competition by a panel of three photography professionals and many of the 4000 online voters who helped choose the shortlist.

Nineteen runner-up entries came from volunteers on placements as far apart as Honduras and Nepal, and highlight the work ICS volunteers do on projects ranging from improving access to safe drinking water to stopping the spread of HIV and other STIs.

Talking about his experience in Bangladesh, Greg added: "I’d say I’m most grateful for the wealth of knowledge and inspiration that was given to me and everyone else involved. Though we had some tough times in this place which almost seemed like a different world, the whole team really coalesced, including the in-country volunteers."

"We got to know members of these communities well, and me and my fellow UK volunteer, Ryan, would meet with our neighbour in the evenings to star gaze. He would express his heart felt concerns for his wonderful family and the struggles he and his people faced day to day."

"My host brother, Zibon, would speak about his country like a foreigner, in a way that he knew exactly what was wrong with it. It was a real slap in the face coming home to hear people complain about the weather."

"With such a warm welcome from the communities, we were made to feel like members of a huge family. It was so refreshing to see such a high level of social integration that we seemed to have lost at home. That’s what was really inspiring, the raw intuition of young people coming together and thriving off of each other."

Since 2012, ICS, has sent more than 900 young people from the east of England to volunteer on projects abroad, alongside volunteers from the country they’re in. Young people don’t need cash or qualifications to take part, just the motivation and commitment to make a difference.

Felicity Morgan, Director of ICS at VSO, said: "Greg’s photo invites you into the world of an international volunteer. Volunteering overseas isn’t just about travelling and experiencing new cultures, it’s about making a real difference to the community you’re in. By working on properly planned, long-term projects and living with local families, our volunteers are able to immerse themselves in a new way of living, as well as making a difference."

Greg plans to print his winning entry and other photos from Bangladesh on to canvas which will be available for purchase, with all funds going towards future voluntary work.

Greg’s image is on display at Westminster Central Hall, London, from Monday 5th December until Saturday 3rd January. Members of the public can visit the exhibition for free. The exhibition will then go on a national tour around the UK.

To find out more about ICS and see all the winners and runners up of the photography competition visit www.volunteerics.org

 

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