Volunteering in Sudan June 7, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : Uncategorized, international development, working abroad , add a comment
The Sudan Volunteer Programme offers opportunities to gain experience working with Sudanese students – at schools and universities. We spoke to David Wolton, the managing secretary and one of the trustees about why the country is of particular interest.
It has a really unusual mix of elements. As well as being a developing country it is also both African and Islamic. It is also emerging from a number of different conflicts – not least Darfur and the conflicts with the newly formed Republic of South Sudan. So whether you are interested in peace building, international development, the Islamic world, the Middle East or Africa or even want to deepen your knowledge of Arabic, Sudan has much to offer. And of course with our programme you have a great opportunity to make a real impact on the life chances of the students you work with.
What does the programme offer? Most of our volunteers go from September to June each year to work either in schools or in universities helping students improve their conversational English. We don’t charge arrangement fees – we raise the money for that from our supporters through our charity status in the UK – and volunteers get paid a local wage by the hosts who also provide free accommodation. Volunteers do have to sort out their own air fare and health jabs, and make a one-off payment of £80 towards the SVP the group health and travel insurance which covers all volunteers when traveling to/from and residing in Sudan.
Given its profile with the conflicts you mentioned above how safe is the country? It is hard to imagine but really I think it is safer than London. There are conflicts – the issues around Darfur haven’t been settled and there is an ongoing territorial dispute with South Sudan but our volunteers don’t work in those areas – and Sudan is a very big country. We provide our volunteers with cultural training and orientation on arrival. This includes things like learning how to use local buses, advice on living and working in an Islamic country. Security isn’t a significant issue. The Sudanese are a very hospitable and friendly people; they welcome and appreciate the presence and work of our volunteers.
At the same time it can be a challenging country. We look for volunteers who can be self reliant and adaptable, perhaps they have already done some travelling. Young graduates are surprisingly good at making the experience work. We have sent hundreds of volunteers to Sudan over the last 16 years so we know how to provide a safe and rewarding experience.
What are some of the cultural issues? Well it is an Islamic country so alcohol isn’t a feature of the culture but it isn’t a big issue for volunteers either who want to have a discreet drink. Similarly we underline for our volunteers that relationships with local people should be friendly and professional. Having said that a number of our volunteers have eventually married Sudanese.
David, as you probably know there are some concerns about unqualified people working in classrooms in the developing world. What is your response to this? What the volunteers are there to do is to help with conversational English. Native English speakers are the perfect people to do that. The work is extra-curricular and, frankly, if we didn’t have volunteers doing this then the students would be missing out. For many of them developing a future and getting work depends in part on their ability to speak English well. On arrival we provide some training on running conversation classes and English clubs and we cover things like differentiated learning, assessment, and classroom management. We even cover things like course marketing as the classes are voluntary for the students. Incidentally we also get volunteers who have TEFL qualifications and/or other formal teaching qualifications who want the opportunity to learn about Sudan.
What do volunteers get out of the experience? You can read some case studies on our site but one thing students might be interested in is how helpful the experience can be to their careers. Sudan is seen as a ‘difficult’ country and it is an unusual place to go and this by itself gives an advantage. This can help if you are applying to places like the Foreign & Commonwealth Office or international agencies and NGOs who give real preference to those who have had experience in the field. A spell with SVP gives regional knowledge – it helps anyone applying for international development, conflict resolution, political risk or for those who want to make a start in learning or improving their Arabic for a commercial career. For more details about SVP please visit http://www.svp-uk.com or email the UK secretary, David Wolton at firstname.lastname@example.org
There are many ways of getting international volunteering experience. Use Careerstagged.co.uk to find out more. We have listed some of them here
Opportunities in Nepal and India with Generation June 3, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : international development, work abroad , add a comment
I recently met with Amy Pettipher from Generation, a new venture founded by Vanilla in partnership with MondoChallenge Foundation. Careers staff and students may know Vanilla because one of their other ventures, Charityworks, provides a graduate training programme for the non-profit sector.
I asked Amy if ‘Generation’ was the international version of Charityworks? “No”, she told me. “But we have drawn on our experience of working with young people who are passionate about social change to develop the programme.”
Generation offers 3 month placements for volunteers to work in schools in India and Nepal, and what makes it distinct from other volunteer programmes is our excellent pre-placement training, in-country support and post-placement career coaching.
This is the pilot year for the programme, and Amy and the team are looking for a small group of individuals to take part in Generation’s first year and help shape the programme for future volunteers. This exciting pilot provides an opportunity for volunteers to apply their skills and knowledge, working with schools and communities to achieve locally owned goals that will benefit generations to come.
The programme’s focus initially is going to be on a cluster of schools in the Northeast Indian Himalayas. Although this is the first time Generation has worked with the schools in India, all the schools have a long history of working with volunteers, and Amy herself volunteered at one of the schools in 2010.
Generation volunteers will teach English classes, but there is lots of scope to contribute to other subjects as all the schools are English speaking. “In addition,” Amy told me, “volunteers will have the opportunity to work on community development projects – this could be anything from working with school staff to develop systems for evaluating individual students’ progress throughout the year, to facilitating the planning and setting up of a food cooperative that will generate revenue for the schools and communities (one or two of the schools have some agricultural land and are keen to run similar projects). Projects and activities will depend on the ambitions and needs of the schools, and we want to emphasise that the volunteer’s role is to facilitate and stimulate ideas in collaboration with the schools, rather than to develop or change existing practices for the sake of it.”
I asked Amy to address the concern about relatively unqualified people from the UK going to work in developing world classrooms. “We do stress that our cohort members – and we expect to send up to 10 in the pilot group – are not teachers, they are volunteers supporting the work of the teaching staff and providing the students with a fresh perspective on their studies. All volunteers will be at least graduate level and as such will have very definite things to offer beyond just energy and enthusiasm. There is a real shortage of staff in some of the schools and the schools who host volunteers do so because they see the difference volunteers can make – not just while they are there but on a continuing basis by making sure the projects they initiate can be continued by staff and students.“
I asked Amy about other key features of the programme. “Generation is founded on the expertise of Vanilla and our partner charity, MondoChallenge Foundation: we are working in partnership with the Foundation, who understand and are connected to communities in Northeast India and Nepal. Our combined expertise of international development and the UK charity sector mean we are perfectly positioned to help volunteers take part in a successful and enriching cultural exchange, as well as plan careers in the charity sector. Part of the fee entitles volunteers to benefit from Vanilla’s career coaching expertise which includes a comprehensive debrief of the volunteer placement and a CV assessment. It’s one of the ways we think we can provide great results not just for the local communities but for our volunteers as well, and we’re really keen to hear from anyone who may be considering volunteering this year.“
Volunteers pay £1,100 for a 3 month placement – this includes accommodation, a two day pre-placement training course, in-country support and post placement careers coaching, as well as a donation to the MondoChallenge Foundation. The first cohort is due to leave in September 2013 though there is some flexibility around dates.
Find out more by visiting : http://www.vanillaventures.co.uk/generation/
Generation is also on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GenerationInternationalVolunteering
Collaborating online with NGOpolis May 23, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : NGO, environment, environmental, international development, networking, sustainability , add a comment
I met with Sherri Wong from NGOpolis. Sherri is a third year UCL geography student and is helping NGOpolis get on the radar of the international development and conservation sectors.
NGOpolis is a social networking platform that enables NGOs, students and academic institutions to connect to combat global challenges.
Sherri explained that NGOpolis’ aim is to have the thousands of organisations, individuals and institutions engaged in conservation and sustainable development find an easy way to exchange expertise.
I paused, twiddled with my mobile devices and thought, ‘no I can’t think of any site that is doing that’. Maybe you are a development professional in the field looking to see if there are any resources or material available – anything from data, research or lesson plans? Or you might be a student looking to make your masters essay available or an undergraduate looking for some original research? Material is uploaded and tagged so finding material is easy.
The model is drawn from nature where healthy systems are diverse but have productive interspecies relationship that provide the glue that binds ecosystems together
NGOpolis is fairly new. Sherri is one the first interns and part of her role is to enrol users and contacts to encourage them to use and upload information for sharing. Other members of the NGOpolis team are working out of Poland, across London and Egypt and the US – so already an international platform. However, so far the funding for NGOpolis has come from a single conservation professional, Alice Grainger. A major fundraising initiative is underway, that wants to raise money, not just to keep NGOpolis going, but also to provide direct financial support to some of the grass roots organisations that are registered on the site. You can watch the official fundraising campaign video here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCHAHwczwQw
Here are some ways you can use and contribute to NGOpolis – though first you will need to register and create your own page as an individual or as an organisation
- Upload your essays, research projects, or articles – you can do this by using the upload file function on your NGOpolis page; you can also download documents that others have uploaded.
- Or you can create ‘pages’ or ‘projects’. These pages will be fully translated into any language when other members need to use the site in their native tongue. This essential feature also aims to overcome some of the major linguistic (and therefore cultural) barriers to research and development, where organsaitons and institutions are wasting time and money replicating research that has already been done, but has only been published in foreign languages in publications that they know nothing about. These pages can also be edited collaboratively by toher members of your group, or even by all logged in users if you wish.
- Search for a topic you are interested in and see what resources are available – using the search engine to search for key words; and then refine your search using the menu on the left to look through different users, groups, files, bookmarks, etc. that are using the same key words. All content can also be tagged, so you can also search using only tags.
- Create and join a group page for a topic/area of interest – there are a range of group types available: standard, organisations, academic institutions. This makes is easier for people and organisations to share resources and have either open or closed discussions on specific topics..
- Post links to articles and blogs; and create your own bookmarks for easy reference – the bookmarks function is more than just adding links.You can tag these urls and add short descriptions, making them fully searchable and easy for people to decide quickly if this bookmark is useful and worth opening.
Why not start a class group for discussions nd collecting bookmarks and files that the whole class might benefit from? You can invite your lecturers and create an informal platform for theoretical and practical use.
Or connect with a department in a university in South Africa for instance and collaborate with students there? You can share reading lists, give informal feedback on course materials, find out if they have different approaches to things you might take for granted. Or create a group for a field trip? You can load research projects and updates, create a
table of your results so that other students can benefit from the experience too.
NGOpolis seems to offer something really distinctive. I’ve registered already – so I’ll see you over there
Getting Into Fundraising May 21, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : international development , add a comment
Thanks very much to one of our readers who has kindly allowed us to make some advice we gave her public
“Dear Jeff, I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch. I am a regular on your website and have taken on a lot of advice in your book ‘Getting Into International Development’ .I am writing to seek your advice and I apologise as I am sure you receive many emails similar to mine! However if you can give it, any advice on my current position would be invaluable and much appreciated.
I graduated in 2011 with a first in International Development and Geography. Since leaving university I worked voluntarily as a Fundraising Events Co-ordinator for a large NGO, completed a programmes based internship with a children’s charity and completed an internship with a microfinance charity including going to Malawi for three months to implement part of their project. I have recently had four interviews relating to fundraising and projects and unfortunately have not been successful with any of them. However the interview feedback they have given me is not enough experience although I have been in the final two for three of the interviews. I have been applying for jobs since the end of February.
Would you recommend I complete another internship or sit tight and hope more of an entry level appears?
Thank you in advance,
Hi Rosa, actually I don’t get that many direct contacts and it’s nice to hear from a real live reader!
- Firstly, you are on your way . . . you have the qualifications, determination and experience. Don’t forget that or give up. The fact you are getting shortlisted regularly is a really good sign. You have been applying since February . . . well its still only May and you haven’t done badly with your strike rate!
- Secondly, the only time you can guarantee that you have enough experience is when you are offered a job. So that feedback might be right and I would suggest that until you get a job that you carry on getting experience.
- Thirdly, even though fundraising is an easier route into development than, say, policy or research, it is still competitive. So do consider less fashionable fundraising sectors before pitching for really popular ones. I remember interviewing one fundraising professional who built up her experience with an unfashionable charity – something like ‘Help The Aged’ before she landed a fundraising job with UNICEF. Remember even when the Apollo spacecraft went to the moon they had to head in a different direction but they always knew they were on course.
- Do check out our resources on careerstagged.co.uk search on fundraising – the institute of fundraising has some job seeking tips. http://www.careerstagged.co.uk/resources/fundraising/all/popular/1 The institute of fundraising also runs short courses – maybe that would just give you the edge you need? They are also having a national convention in July – maybe you could ask to volunteer there and network while you are at it?
- Also are you using our jobonline site http://jobonline.thecareersgroup.co.uk/careersgroup/student/ ? A search on fundraising as a keyword search will yield quite a few good opportunities
Automate your opportunity search May 13, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : Careers Advice, Careers Resources, vacancies , 6comments
This blog post is about a great way to automate your opportunity search. It explains how you can use a great free web service called If This Then That (IFTTT.Com) to ensure that any relevant opportunities in areas such as charities or NGOs or in government and politics (or, indeed, any sector you might be interested in) are sent to your email account.
Hang on a moment, you might say – “What’s so new about that? Haven’t we been able to do that since about 1997!” And it’s true job sites such as Prospects, Target Jobs and Milkround have been cluttering up my inbox for ages with vacancies.
What’s good about IFTTT is that it allows you to get email notifications even from job sites such as GumTree that, unlike Prospects and Target Jobs, don’t have this kind of email notification option built in. Crucially IFTTT can be used to keep you updated from one of the best graduate vacancy sites, our very own JobOnline.
I have created an IFTTT instruction or ‘recipe’ as they call them to send me an email every time an opportunity appears on JobOnline in either international development or politics. And the good thing is that, if you register on IFTTT, you can simply use my recipe rather than creating your own. Just register and search for my recipe using my username Jefffromclapham as your search term, click to use it and the notifications will be sent to your nominated email account as well as mine. Of course you are also welcome to set up and share your own ‘recipes’. My recipe triggers an email when something happens in a specific ‘channel’ in this case the RSS feed from a JobOnline search but you can use other ‘triggers’ and other ‘channels’
You can use IFTTT to generate lots of different types of actions – emails, text messages, downloading for example – from a wide range of different ‘channels’ such as RSS feeds, Facebook, Vimeo, Flickr and many more. Not just job searches either some people use IFTTT to be notified by email every time a free book download appears on Amazon, save Facebook status updates to Evernote or copy Facebook photos they are tagged in to their G drive.
Like the British Cycling Team you are using technology to create a marginal difference that cumulatively can help deliver success
Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman are hiring! May 10, 2013Posted by fionarichardson in : The Careers Group Blogs, politics , add a comment
Thanks to my colleague, Fiona Richardson, who works with War Studies students at King’s College London. She has flagged up one of the many interesting vacancies on our JobOnline service on her blog at http://www.careers.lon.ac.uk/blog/ppp
Nick Clegg and Harriet Harman are just two of the MPs advertising on JobOnline for a Case Worker or Parliamentary Assistant. There are currently 6 vacancies posted so whatever your political persuasion there should be something there to interest you. I have been careful not to include any that require you to have previous parliamentary experience though most do expect some evidence of research, community or casework experience. This need not come from employment but could certainly be garnered from volunteer work, internships or academic work. For more tips on how to get a job working for an MP look at the blog from 6th Feb 2013 on Working in Westminster.
Politics Opportunities April 30, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : politics , add a comment
Here are a couple of opportunities for students interested in politics to add a dimension to their CVs. They won’t replace the need to get a good quality degree and internship experience but they are the kind of things that I often see on the CVs of students who are heading in the right direction.
- The International Political Forum offers an opportunity to demonstrate your capacity to write and communicate ideas. This kind of platform set up by engaged students underlines the brilliant array of opportunities for people to reach out beyond their course and campus. Here is what they say about themselves
Have an opinion? Share it with the world and gain experience at the same time! The International Political Forum (IPF) is dedicated to getting young people involved in the global digital debate, and that means we want you to write for us. We can offer you a fast-growing platform: despite being founded less than a year ago, our website has already received over 200,000 views and our Facebook page has over 6,000 Likes – a figure now growing at a rate of 800 per week. We host original content authored by 120 young contributors from 30 countries around the world, and are embarking on a number of larger projects to grow (y)our platform in 2013. We’re also gaining recognition from leading media organisations: we are members of the Guardian Africa Network and winners of a Virgin Media Pioneers trip to India, during which our founder met Richard Branson.
If you’re well-informed, write well, and feel passionately that not enough is being done about something, we want to help you throw the spotlight onto that issue. To be a part of the IPF, send a sample article (a good length is 800 to 1,300 words) and a short introductory paragraph about yourself to Natasha@internationalpoliticalforum.com.
To learn more about the IPF:
Visit our website at www.internationalpoliticalforum.com, like “International Political Forum” on Facebook, Or follow @intlpolitical on Twitter
- Secondly we have been notified about a Model European Council organised by the Cambridge University European Society. Again an excellent opportunity to raise the bar on what is possible.
We are contacting you on behalf of the Cambridge University European Society and would like to bring to your attention the Model European Council we are holding this June. We would like to ask you if you could be so kind as to inform your students about the Model and encourage them to apply via our website.
About the Model:
The Cambridge University European Society (CUEuS) is organising its first Model European Council from 14 June to 16 June 2013 in one of the colleges of the University of Cambridge. The conference will simulate the negotiations of the main European institutions for students from the UK and the rest of Europe. It sets out to engage around 70 participants in debating topical issues in European politics. Each participant will represent a European member state and will act on its behalf in the EU decision-making process. As such, the participants will gain skills in research, critical thinking, persuasive speaking and understanding contemporary European affairs. The topics covered by the negotiations will be 1) the budget negotiations (Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020) 2) the Greek rescue package (Eurogroup meeting) and 3) the common approach to youth unemployment in Europe.
Application Procedure: Interested candidates are invited to fill out the application form on our website. You will be asked to choose a preference for the simulation and add your CV and a motivation letter. The applications are open until the 3rd of May 2013. For more information please consult our website http://cueuropeansociety.wordpress.com/model-european-council/ and our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CambridgeModelEuropeanCouncil.
As always you will be able to find similar opportunities to this by using our CareersTagged online library. A search using the term ‘politics’ will yield best results for this type of opportunity
International Citizen Service – Restless Development April 17, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : NGO, international development , 1 comment so far
We recently published a report from a student enrolled in the International Citizen Service Programme through VSO. Now James Cheung an LSE student has written about his experiences with Restless Development – one of the other organisations delivering the programme.
“I just returned from a 3 month (January to March) volunteering placement in a small rural community in Eastern Uganda, with an international NGO called Restless Development. I was working in a small team of 4 volunteers (2 national, 2 international) on a project funded by UK DFID (the Department for International Development), on David Cameron’s flagship volunteering scheme called the International Citizen Service. Our project was aimed at raising awareness and promoting discussion of Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights, primarily with youth aged between 15 and 35.
“We began our programme with an intensive training course, and then the group of 40 volunteers split into 10 teams across different sub-counties in eastern Uganda. We volunteered as peer educators to facilitate workshops on a range of topics including HIV issues such as stigma and discrimination, STI knowledge and prevention, Gender Rights and Life Skills, such as leadership and communication. We ran sessions in a secondary school, with youth groups and the whole community. We managed community based partnerships alongside the local government and various organisations to run events including health centre talks, condom demonstration and distribution, dialogues and, HIV voluntary counselling and testing to over 300 participants. Our achievements include establishing a youth group (www.nambicommunityresourcecentre.com/blog), and creating partnerships to continue the charity’s work in the community.
“Challenges that we came across included cultural barriers, for example on gender equality we experienced cultural attitudes that could limit female roles in society, a language barrier, poor timekeeping, environmental issues (seeing an 8ft cobra outside our house one night), domestic violence and school corporal punishment. The experience taught me about the problems that so many still face on a daily basis, we lived for 3 months without electricity or running water but there were friends we made who struggled to pay the school fees of their children, needed to bribe officials to get jobs, and who couldn’t rely on government services like the health service and benefits that we know. I have volunteered in the past but this was the first time I was welcomed so openly and fully into a community, we ate and talked and worked with so many different people and learnt from each other. I experienced optimism and positivity- we watched presidential elections in neighbouring Kenya and debated democracy, and I met students that studied till 5am so they could attend university.
“Learning more about development issues and contributing to help improve lives will always make a difference. This doesn’t necessarily mean volunteering or a big commitment but everyone can do their part.”
Macchiatos, Kosovo and a Life Changing Experience April 12, 2013Posted by fionarichardson in : The Careers Group Blogs , add a comment
Thanks to Fiona Richardson from King’s College London for posting this blog about a summer school opportunity.
Andrea Garaiova is currently enrolled on the MA International Peace and Security, she has twice taken part in the summer programme run by the American University in Kosovo (AUK). Andrea found the experience so valuable she was keen to make students aware of this year’s programme. There is no escaping the fact that the experience comes with a hefty course fee but there are scholarships available, look under the application form tab of the website http://summer.aukonline.org/ .
Over to Andrea……
The Summer Programme 2013 on Peace-building, Post-conflict Transformation and Development organized by the American University in Kosovo is a fascinating experience, with incredible people and in exceptional environment – Pristina, Kosovo. Its participants are selected on the basis of their academic, extra-curricular and professional achievements and other elements from their backgrounds, in order to ensure the greatest possible diversity, excellence and mutual learning. Based on my personal experience, I can attest that the AUK succeeds at attracting brilliant, passionate, open-minded and dedicated students. On an everyday basis one finds oneself in a vivid discussion about religious tolerance, development practices or international interventions with peers from Pakistan, Peru, Egypt, Japan, Kosovo, Serbia, United States, Lithuania, Lebanon, Palestine, Azerbaijan, Israel, Nigeria and many other corners of the world.
The classes provide a comprehensive background in the central issues of conflict resolution, post-conflict transformation and development, ranging from history of the Balkans to UN interventions in foreign lands, economic theory and practice in post-conflict environments as well as issues of human rights or role of the media and journalism in conflict situations. The courses are taught by real world practitioners, e.g. former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General of the UN in Kosovo, former generals, individuals with experience in development agencies such as USAID and in UN international interim/transitory administrations (UNMIK), leaders of local NGOs and many others. What is more, lecturers often bring in special speakers and guests – such as officers of the EU’s rule of law and justice mission in Kosovo (EULEX), Kosovo anti-corruption agency, Kosovo Government, International Committee of the Red Cross, international and national media representatives, different embassies based in Pristina. Last year, a group of students was received by the President of the Republic of Kosovo in an informal meeting.
The academic side of the programme is complemented by roundtables held at the end of each week with diplomats, financial institutions representatives, NGOs and journalists, thus giving the students the opportunity to ‘test’ the knowledge they have acquired in classes by raising issues and posing questions to those who are dealing with realities of a post-conflict, developing and state-’built’ environment every day. The panels also provide an excellent opportunity to network and establish contacts for future projects (dissertations, internships etc.).
All this happens in the vibrant capital city of Prishtina, with its unique atmosphere, overwhelmingly young and dynamic population and omnipresent caffes, bars and restaurants serving the best macchiatto in Europe (as every Kosovar tries to convince you, and it is not hard to believe) and the delicious Balkan cuisine. The programme also offers weekend trips to all the main cities and ‘tourist attractions’ in Kosovo as well as two week-long trips in other Balkan countries (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia, Greece), thus making it a true adventure full of new discoveries, sceneries, tastes and experiences.
While many foreigners are preoccupied about security in Kosovo, the words of one of the US Embassy officials in Pristina depict the true reality on the ground: ‘the only real danger in Kosovo is to drink too many macchiattos’ . Many of the previous participants have said that the AUK Summer Programme was a life-changing experience, numerous of them returning to Kosovo to pursue new activities and passions. While I cannot but agree with the ‘warning’ of the US representative, I have come to believe that the most plausible danger in Kosovo is that you fall in love with the country, as many did before you, and that you will be drawn back to it again and again.
Application process is open until 1 May 2013!
International Citizen Service – VSO April 9, 2013Posted by Jeff Riley in : international development, working abroad , add a comment
Faradh Maharoof, a student from Queen Mary, University of London has written for us about his preparations before departing on a three month internship in Malindi, Kenya. Faradh’s piece really gets across his enthusiasm and resourcefulness and underlines how this kind of project can make a real difference to everyone involved – including the volunteers. We hope we can persuad Faradh to send us an update from Kenya. Until then read his post and get some inspiration and information.
The International Citizen Service (ICS) is a government funded programme that gives young people (18-25) an opportunity to volunteer abroad for three months. Run by six of the most respected names in international volunteering, the programme empowers young people to work within communities and help tackle poverty.
Why did I apply to the ICS programme? I find it hard to pinpoint one defining or single reason as to why I applied for the ICS programme. What I am sure of is that my decision to join this programme stems from an empathetic nature and my many travels and holidays in the developing world. From a young age my travels to countries like Sri Lanka, India, Mongolia and even China have enabled me to witness the profound depth of poverty and the glaring inequalities that exist within our global society today. These collective experiences have often left me frustrated and angry, at having to witness such a struggle while being placed in the shoes of a helpless onlooker. Seeing so much deprivation has instilled in me a long standing desire to take arms in the fight against poverty and this is a fundamental reason for my commitment to this programme.
Such underlying feelings have also led me towards a career in international development and it is an area that I have been taking a number of steps in. However, I am just starting out and I view this programme as wonderful opportunity for someone like me, as it allows young people to develop skills, knowledge and experiences. I hope this experience can help my career aspirations in the long run. One more factor that drew me to this programme was the opportunity to immerse myself in another country, another culture and another way of life for three months; and make a real difference while doing so. I found the ICS programme better able to provide a more comprehensive volunteering experience. They only take on projects that have been specifically requested by local authorities and communities, and are run by six of the most respected charities in international volunteering. To be able to work and learn in such a committed environment was too good to turn down.
The journey before the journey Once you have gone through all the emotions of being accepted onto the ICS programme, with the charity you have been assigned to, the next few months before departure can feel like an eternity. Despite being a mere two weeks away from my scheduled departure date, I cannot help feel impatient and restless; I sense that this will continue until I step onto the plane, where these emotions will be replaced by nerves and apprehension. The ‘pre-departure’ period is dominated by three main responsibilities, fundraising, vaccinations and the training weekend.
Fundraising Initially, the idea of having to fundraise £800 was daunting, especially considering that I have never engaged in this kind of activity before. However, the ideas and support provided by the VSO fundraising team have been wonderful, and most, if not all of my fundraising ideas, came as a direct result of the support and ideas they provided. I found that planning ahead and taking into account a number of different fundraising strategies were crucial to my success.
My two main strategies were to organise charity events and get donations from friends, family and colleagues. While the latter approach has provided me with the majority of my funding, I found the former approach to be an enriching experience. By organising a number of charity football matches, mini-marathons, and social gatherings I was able to raise awareness, and importantly gain a better appreciation of the organisational skills and commitment needed to succeed in the international development sector.
I should also inform you that I have just been granted £300 from Jack Petchey Foundation. I was aware of a number of different grant options, but hadn’t applied to any as I was unsure on how successful I would be pursuing this strategy. It seemed a bit far-fetched but after a conversation with my fundraising officer I decided to apply for the Jack Petchey Foundation’s Volunteering grant, in fact I just made the deadline. How well it turned out then. I applied to the Jack Petchey Foundation as I had known them from a very young age, over the years I had become well aware of just how much they invest in the youth of London and just being able to apply and meet their eligibility criteria was a humbling experience. To actually receive their support, and such a generous amount of support, has left me speechless and I cannot begin to express how grateful I am for this.
Overall, the fundraising has been a positive experience and one that is designed to test your commitment to the programme. I would encourage everyone on the ICS programme to take on board all of the support and advice provided, as it helped me reach my target. During the experience I was able to network with some wonderful people, all of whom provided me with ideas and support that have been helpful to my cause. Among them are two journalists who have helped put my project on few local newspapers, and I am truly grateful for their help in both, raising awareness of the ICS programme and also encouraging more young people to take part.
Vaccinations The vaccinations, all eight of them, have been the least inspiring part of the pre-departure process but also a very important part of it, without them you cannot take your place on the programme. I am not particularly scared of injections; I have never had a phobia of needles, or clowns for that matter, but the notion of eight injections did leave me slightly uneasy. I have always been a bit naive as to their importance and despite travelling on a regular basis; I have only been vaccinated against a couple of the major threats. Therefore I am grateful to this programme; in the sense that it made me do something I would not have done so otherwise, which is to take my health more seriously when I am travelling.
Training weekend Another compulsory component of the pre-departure process is the training weekend, which is held in Birmingham, London or York. My weekend took place in Birmingham, fortunately in one of the nicer parts of the city, and I had to opportunity to meet around 15-20 other volunteers. It is vital to attend on the training dates provided as you will have a chance to meet a few volunteers who will be travelling with you to the same country and undertaking the same project. It is one of the only ways before departure whereby you have the chance to meet and get to know your teammates. Otherwise it can be a case of heading off into to the unknown, with the unknown.
The weekend itself is a very informative experience and it is run by two return volunteers. Their sessions cover everything from footwear to healthcare and are designed to prepare you for the three months abroad. Be prepared to do your fair share of singing, dancing, running and presenting during the weekend as the sessions are quite engaging. Factor in the drinking and socialising that follows the conclusion of each day and the weekend has the capacity to be ever so slightly tiring. Nevertheless, it is still an immensely enjoyable experience, one that allows socialising with likeminded people and the transfer of important information.
Pre-conceptions I haven’t really had the time to be nervous. The last few months have been frantic; currently I am undertaking an internship at the Democratic Progress Institute, as a fundraising and development intern while also holding onto my part-time, weekend job at the John Lewis Partnership. Having to work seven days a week is highly taxing, but by managing my holidays effectively and having the luck of the long Easter weekend, I have been able to recharge my batteries at timely moments. This has enabled me to stay committed on both fronts, but I haven’t had the luxury of thinking about my Kenya adventure for a prolonged period of time.
I am unsure how close the trip came to being called off due to the recent election violence, but I was informed of another volunteering team in Kenya being withdrawn due to safety concerns. This worries me endless, as I feel like I have so much to learn and experience from the whole three months and the thought of not going, or coming home early is my biggest fear at the moment. But I have taken the bigger picture into account, which is the shocking and unacceptable spate of violence that has unfortunately cost a lot of innocent lives.
Food poisoning is something that I have pretty much accepted is going to happen at some point during my three months. From information passed down to us and hearing experiences of other volunteers, it seems almost inevitable. 7 out of 10 volunteers are supposed to experience it. So there is possibly not much I can do, other than prepare for the worst. Sunburn is another hazard that has the potential to make life very uncomfortable. Though it has never been an issue for me I will still be taking the necessary precautions, especially after hearing some of the horror stories the VSO nurse had to share with us. Furthermore, living in an environment that has more bugs than you are used will take some adjusting, and while simple bites and bruises are to be expected, I am rather more concerned about malaria. I didn’t realise it was so easy to catch!
Final thoughts I still cannot believe I am going! In a conflicting way it seems to have happened so fast, before I knew it I am preparing for three months in Kenya, but at the same time the last two months have dragged. So I am glad that I am on that final stretch where I can start concentrating on packing and learning phrases in Swahili.
On a final note, I could not be happier with the choice of going to Kenya. On my application form I opted against selecting any charity, country or project preferences as I didn’t want to reduce my chances in any way. Naturally this meant that I had no idea as to which region I will be travelling or which type of work I will be undertaking. However, having only dreamt of going to Africa, I could not be happier with the choice of Kenya. We also seem to me be near the coast, and the thought of being a stone’s throw away from the beach is sending my excitement levels through the roof. The project theme is educational and disability needs, which are areas I look forward to learning more and gaining more experience in. Disability is an issue I feel strongly about and the fact that the welfare system we take for granted is almost non-existent in many parts of the world is something I have read about and even witnessed on a number of occasions. Therefore having the chance to help people that may not necessarily be able to help themselves is an experience I look forward to. We will also work on environmental issues at some point and this is an issue that I have come to love through my A-levels in Geography.
While I am excited about the project and the three months ahead, I cannot help feel that there will be plenty of challenges, good and bad, in the times to come. Therefore, I hope that the combination of experiences will help me learn more about the world of poverty and gain a better understanding of the struggle people in other parts of the world face on a daily basis.