My time volunteering
As a volunteer on the International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, I spent three months contributing to a livelihoods project in Siaya, Kenya, alongside other youth volunteers from both the UK and Kenya. The aim of the project I was working on is to reduce the unemployment and underemployment of marginalised girls and young women in the community, such as young mothers and those living with HIV/AIDS.
The three outcomes that volunteers in Siaya work towards achieving are:
- Improved soft and technical skills for employment and entrepreneurship
- Enhanced access to employment and entrepreneurship
- Strengthened community support for girls’ employment and entrepreneurship opportunities
To be able to achieve the project goal and outcomes, my fellow volunteers and I were placed in small teams at different training institutes, schools or youth centres in the community. I was placed at a vocational training centre attended by many marginalised girls and young women. My two Kenyan counterpart volunteers and I planned and delivered regular peer education sessions on life skills, such as stress management, healthy lifestyles and how to write business plans. We also raised community awareness on the benefits of vocational training, such as through speaking at community meetings held by local chiefs.
Every placement team also took it in turn to host an Active Citizenship Day to raise awareness of a Sustainable Development Goal of their choice and explain how it is linked to community issues. At my placement, we organised an event to raise awareness on SDG16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions, focusing on the topic of Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) in the community.
The impact of my placement
The life skills sessions we delivered at our placement contributed to empowering the girls and young women to live better lives, increasing their confidence and self-esteem, and equipping them with the skills to succeed in employment and entrepreneurship.
In addition to our work on placement, ICS provides volunteers with the opportunity to innovate and implement a new development project. I developed the idea for a mentorship programme that aims to inspire local girls and young women about their futures and motivate them to achieve their potential, through providing mentorship sessions from successful and relatable women in the community. This programme had numerous positive impacts including making the local women feel more inspired about their futures and achieving their ambitions, establishing a support network for women within the community and increasing the personal development of those involved in the project as a result of having increased responsibility and the opportunity to advance their public speaking skills.
My unforgettable moments
Walking out in front of a crowd of over 1,500 local school students to deliver a session to reduce the stigma around vocational training and widen the girls’ understanding of the opportunities available to them after completing their high school education was a very memorable moment. The students were really excited by our presence and therefore very engaged, which created an amazing energy and resulted in a very beneficial session.
The impact my placement has had on me
My time volunteering confirmed my desire to pursue a career in the charity sector, as I enjoyed being able to use my skills to empower the most marginalised members of communities to be able to fulfil their potential, through supporting capacity building approaches to development. No other experience in the space of only three months could have enabled me to learn so much and gain such thorough practical knowledge about numerous aspects of working on a development project, as the ICS programme has done.
My volunteering placement also developed my self-assurance, as being given the responsibility to take charge of placement work encouraged me to have confidence in my own ideas and my implementation of them. Furthermore, I was able to strengthen my ability to be flexible and adaptable as a result of dealing with challenges of varying extents during my time volunteering. I look forward to implementing and building upon what I am grateful to have learnt from taking part in the ICS programme in my future career and my life more generally.
Bondo Town, Siaya County