I am very lucky. VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) are sending me to Malindi on the coast of Kenya for three months this July. I will be working on their educations (focus on disability), SRH (sexual reproductive health) and livelihoods programmes. Seven other UK volunteers and I will be working in partnership with Kenyan volunteers to bring about changes which will benefit the local community.
I didn’t apply to VSO directly but I applied online through ICS, the International Citizen Service. ICS is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) and it works with six charities specialising in overseas development; VSO, International Development, Tearfund, Raleigh International, Progresso and Restless Development. ICS is open to anyone aged 18-25 and the aim of the programme is to bring young people together to fight poverty and make a real positive impact on the world around them. ICS only works in communities that have specifically requested their help.
After my online application was accepted by ICS they passed on my details to VSO, who invited me to an assessment day to find out whether ICS VSO suited me. The assessment day was fairly nerve-racking but also quite enjoyable. The assessment day is an opportunity to meet other potential volunteers and get an idea of the kinds of people who you may be working with. The people at my assessment day were all very lovely, easy to get on with and enthusiastic. The sort of qualities that volunteers need are realistic commitment, the ability to work with others, flexibility and adaptability, sensitivity to the needs of others and practical problem solving abilities.
Everyone who is accepted by ICS is given a fundraising target depending on their household income. I, like most people, was given the target of £800. Fundraising is actually a lot easier than it looks. To meet my target I did a cake sale and a sponsored skydive.
There are loads of other ways to fundraise for your cause. Other people I know have done the “live below the line” challenge where you get people to sponsor you to live on no more than one pound a day for a week. Another great way to raise funds is to write to your local radio and newspaper. Helping at your local supermarket as a bag packer can also make lots of money. With VSO you get assigned a fundraising support officer to give you support and advice with your fundraising.
All ICS volunteers are required to attend a training weekend. The training weekend isn’t really what you would call training – it is more of an opportunity to meet other people in your group. We also had the opportunity to meet, and question extensively, a former ICS Kenya volunteer.
When we arrive in Kenya, we will spend a couple of days doing an in-country orientation. During the orientation we will discuss the projects which we will work on and get going! I’ll be writing a monthly blog of all the things I get up to in Kenya, which you can read here on DW Online.
I’m so excited, I can’t wait!!
written by Simonne Griffith-Jones