International Citizen Service (ICS) volunteer Ollie spent 12 weeks in Kaolack, Senegal, helping marginalised young people as part of the International Citizen Service programme. One year after he returned from his placement, he reflects on his experience, what he learnt and how this influenced his past year and future ambitions.
It is exactly one year since I returned from Senegal; reflecting on this last year, I recognise that my ICS placement has helped me understand what is important to me and what I want to achieve in my personal and working life.
Before my ICS placement, you could say that I had followed the common path; from school to sixth form and then on to University. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy these experiences but I felt that I had been led down that path by the aspirations of my parents, teachers and tutors rather than my own goals and ambitions. Therefore, after graduating from University, I decided I wanted to achieve something more meaningful, not for myself or my CV, but something that would help the wider community.
Having applied to ICS, I went to Kaolack, Senegal with Y Care International where I worked as part of a team of UK and Senegalese volunteers helping improve the lives of marginalised young people. I spent time working on the Act2Live Project and assisting a wide variety of local organisations in their incredible work to improve the lives of the city’s most vulnerable. By far the most rewarding aspect of my placement was supporting the amazing people of Kaolack; however, working on a diverse group of tasks and living in a different culture also had a positive impact on my own development. For the first time since graduating I was able to find the confidence to develop as a young adult, learning new skills and pushing my boundaries.
Over the past year, since I returned from Senegal, I have been lucky enough to travel across Asia and South America and have lived & worked in Europe. The life experience I gained through ICS, and the practical experience of living and working in a completely different culture, was fundamental in showing me how rewarding it is to push your boundaries and take yourself out of your comfort zone.
To mark the one-year anniversary of our ICS placement, my fellow UK volunteers and I met up in Birmingham. It was the perfect opportunity to reflect on how extremely rewarding it was spending three months in Senegal. One year on and for me the highlight of the trip is still the opportunity I had to work with such inspiring and enthusiastic people. As a group we overcame language barriers and cultural differences to achieve a huge amount of positive change. Even now, we are still in contact, not only with each other but also with our Senegalese counterparts and I still have the pleasure of catching up with my host family over Skype.
I am extremely grateful to ICS and Y Care International for giving me the opportunity to meet such a wonderful group of people and I would encourage anyone else thinking of doing the ICS Programme to embrace it with open arms.
If you’re 18-25, apply for the International Citizen Service today and you could volunteer for a YMCA in Africa, Asia or Latin America! You don’t need cash or qualifications, just the appetite to make a difference.
Discover the world, learn new skills and help fight poverty: www.ycareinternational.org/ics