Memories from my ICS placement in Senegal

In Senegal, volunteers have been conducting research into the impact that ICS has had in the 2 communities we have been working in since 2014 – Ziguinchor and Kaolack.

With the findings coming in soon, returned volunteer and ICS Support and Logistics Officer, Hannah Snow, reflects on her time on placement in Senegal.

Flexibility, adaptability and problem-solving…. These are just some of the 7 ICS dimensions that we look for when selecting volunteers and I can certainly testify that these ones in particular were needed in abundance on my ICS placement in Kaolack, Senegal! There was no such thing as a typical day, so I was certainly kept on my toes!

I had so many varied and memorable experiences across the 3 months I was overseas, from setting up English clubs, living with a host family, building relationships with local employment agencies, conducting causeries on STIs, YMCA branch strengthening including opening evenings, radio broadcasts, camp fires…. It was a packed 3 months! I’d like to tell you about one of these not so typical days…

International Women’s Day 2017 – as a team, we wanted to do something to thank the local women for the roles they played in their households and to give them the morning off from their chores.My alarm went off at 6am and I shuffled across the yard to the toilet, saying hello to the turkeys on route (as was part of my morning routine). My host home was a literally a 10 second walk from the YMCA (so no excuse to be late to team meetings!) where I met some of the team who were armed with brushes, dustpans and enthusiasm! We spent the next couple of hours going door to door, meeting some of the local women and their families – it was a great opportunity to spread awareness of the YMCA in the community and to talk about the ICS programme.

Heading back to the YMCA, we ate breakfast together as a team and started to plan our day. Jules, one of the local volunteers who was involved in local amateur dramatics, had written a sketch especially for International Women’s Day. He said that the Alliance Francaise was hosting a cultural evening where we could perform. So…. we rose to the challenge – as a team of 20, we were going to learn, practice and perform a sketch in Wolof, all in a day! Oh, and we still would be running our weekly English clubs at the YMCA in the meantime! After hosting clubs for around 20 young people, we grabbed a taxi and rushed on over to the Alliance which was in the centre of Kaolack. As we passed the audience to head back stage, we saw that there were around 100 people in the crowd. More than we’d been expecting!

The sketch was a celebration of the different roles women play in Senegalese society and their strength of character. I learnt a dialogue in Wolof which I spoke in unison with the other characters and had a solo line which got a great reception from the audience! We also had the opportunity to introduce our sketch with a short piece on what the YMCA is, what they do in the community and what the ICS programme is all about.

Working for the ICS programme means that I’m reminded daily of all the experiences I had on placement. I find that volunteers appreciate knowing that I’ve actually been on placement and can relate to what they’re going through, from the busy-ness of pre-placement preparations, to the challenges they might experience once overseas.

It’s been a year since I got back from placement and writing this blog has reminded of all the fantastic things we did as a team in Senegal. Our team was the first of four to work in Kaolack on a project improving economic opportunities for young people. With volunteers collating their findings on the research they’ve been conducting during their placement, I’m excited to find out the results of the impact assessment.

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