I played a part in setting up a new country

Tom Locke with his book 'Life in the Sauna'
Tom Locke with his book 'Life in the Sauna'

A Burntisland man who spent two years working as a volunteer in the African country of Eritrea has written a book about his experiences.

And by doing so he hopes to dispel some of the misconceptions of African people and encourage more people to consider sharing their skills with other nations.

Tom Locke (55), of the town’s Harbour Place, has worked overseas in many different countries, but it was his time spent at a large petroleum refinery in Eritrea, teaching IT skills to workers there, that his book ‘Life in the Sauna’ centres around.

“What set me out on the path of volunteering was a friend of mine who went to Egypt and really enjoyed it. That stuck with me, so when the chance came up during the 90s I took it and went through the Voluntary Service Overseas assessment programme. I’ve always enjoyed travelling and have been to lots of Eastern European countries.

“This is the ideal way to experience different cultures and do something worthwhile, and I’d encourage anyone to give it a go if they can.

“One of the misconceptions about VSO volunteers is that they are all teachers and, while a large percentage are, there are people from all walks of life.

“The organisation looks for places where your skills could be best used, so with me being in IT, there were only so many operating systems I could use. I was originally going to Papua New Guinea, but then the possibility of volunteering in Eritrea came about. It had not long come out of a long conflict with Ethiopia and was basically starting out, so it was good to be able to help that process.

“The people were friendly and willing to work hard and it was a great experience.”

Tom’s book will be on sale at Burntisland’s Totally Locally Fiver Fest tomorrow (Friday) or through Amazon.