For Nottingham grad Rhiann Mirchandani-Cooper, ICS was the push she needed to find her feet. Recently she has landed a coveted place on Hilary Clinton’s campaign team. We caught up with Rhiann to find out how it all began with a crusade against car horns…
It might seem an unlikely fight to pick. But in recent decades, the huge population increase in the Bolivian administrative capital of La Paz has caused a spike in the number of vehicles on its narrow, chaotic streets.
In 2001, to tackle the increasing number of road accidents, the city government persuaded 24 young people to dress up as zebras – based on the street crossings that Bolivia also uses – to educate pedestrians and drivers on sharing the road.
Road safety in the world’s highest city
Building on the success of the government programme, which now employs more than 200 ‘zebras’, Rhiann’s ICS placement – called ‘Zebras for a silent La Paz’ – delivered workshops to different parts of the community on the importance of respecting traffic regulations and reducing noise.
“Initially it seemed like a fairly peculiar project. I had images of chasing down cars on the streets of Bolivia but I could not have been more wrong!” she explained.
“When I arrived, I was struck by how just how overpowering noise pollution can be and how it affects street workers. There was a clear lack of consideration for traffic regulations and I immediately understood why I was there.”
Working alongside the fluffy community mascots, Rhiann and her team of UK and Bolivian volunteers got stuck in straight away, organising visits to driving schools to show new drivers the ways in which their habits on the road can affect the health of the young kids who work the streets.
“ICS completely changed my life – clichéd, I know, but true. Following my time In Bolivia I became a national ambassador for ICS and have a newfound passion for developmental issues after seeing how our work can make a difference.”
Fighting for the presidency
21-year-old Rhiann, who graduated this summer with a First Class in Politics and International Relations from the University of Nottingham, has secured a coveted place on Hilary Clinton’s campaign team as they work in the swing state of Florida to try and win the presidency.
“There I will be working with a campaign called ‘45 for the 45th’, set up to find ways to tackle voter apathy within the UK. When I return I will deliver a presentation to the major political parties here in the UK highlighting where they are going wrong,” Rhiann explained.
“The aim is that young people will participate more in politics. This is an issue I feel very strongly about as it is so important for young people to be politically aware of the decisions that affect them.”
Based in Florida for the duration of her time with the campaign, Rhiann will then head over to New York for the results of the election on November 8th before heading back to the UK to then begin her first graduate role as a business intelligence analyst. And of course, she’ll carry on as an ambassador for ICS
Tackling political disenchantment
“I hope that I can influence other young people like me to become less disenchanted and more politically engaged, to view politics in a more positive way despite living in what sometimes seems like times of economic and political uncertainty,” she said.
And it’s not just youth engagement with politics that Rhiann is keen on increasing.
“ICS offers solutions and opportunities that we ourselves take for granted. They give people support and information in areas that are not addressed or do not receive funding normally.
“I think young people are very detached from developmental issues. It is hard to compute that so many simply survive with a lack of vital resources on a daily basis. Seeing the impact of such issues and the direct effects on the people that I worked with on ICS was life changing.”