I love volunteering and have done for a good few years. I think my favourite thing about volunteering is that there’s so many different forms that it can come in. In this post I’m going talk briefly about my ICS experience with the charity Restless Development UK, and how it has affected me and why I think other people should take part in volunteering.
Currently I am a volunteer in the Action @ Home phase of her ICS Programme. ICS is not a programme that I was familiar with up until last September when my mum sent me an email with an application form attached to it and told me to apply. I think my lack of jobs and inability to do housework was getting to her.
The International Citizenship Service (ICS) is a programme fully funded by the Department for International Development and is available to 18 – 25 year olds. I truly mean available to anyone within this age group as well; economic status and qualifications mean nothing in the interview process. All you need is the ambition and motivation to do something amazing.
I moved to Tamil Nadu in India in the January of this year and I was terrified. I had heard horror stories about how women are treated, crime trouble, and was told to watch out for men. I heard lots of comments about my ‘holiday’ and I got disheartened and started to wonder why I was bothering. When I got to India, got to my host family in the tiny village of Thiruvalangadu, my whole mind set changed. I was hugged by my host mum when I was homesick, given language lessons by my host dad so I wasn’t confused, and laughed a lot with my host brothers and my UK room-mates. My team worked so hard to do good there, and after a while we saw benefits. Children came to our daily youth club to learn and play, kids listened to the school lessons we ran on health and jobs, and, one of my favourite days, we helped young local girls think more about their future, alternatives to the housewife role. I also lived in a completely new way. I ate more rice than I ever had before, I woke up early to help collect water and washed my clothes with a bar of soap and a bucket. Rurality in a developing country was hard to adapt to; stray dogs were everywhere, the poor gender equality, the racial system, and horrific amount of litter. I know it’ll never leave me, and oddly I’m glad to know these images will stay with me.
In March, I returned from my placement and I felt different… I’m not going to say that volunteering in India completely changed who I am as a person because that would be a lie. I still get cranky in the mornings, I still cry excessively at Disney movies, and I’m clumsy enough to break every household appliance that I come into contact with. But I think more about my impact on the environment, the sustainability of my life and where what I wear comes from. As a whole I feel kinder and more open minded, but mainly I am infinitely grateful for such an amazing opportunity to be available to me. I’d especially urge young people to take part in programmes such as NCS and ICS as we have such a large influence on the world. Together, young people need to stand up and put themselves at the forefront of global change.