Why all young people should consider volunteering abroad with International Citizen Service


On Tuesday 7th February, I met young people who volunteered overseas through the Government funded International Citizen Service (ICS) programme. 13 ICS volunteers came to Parliament to display their photographs shortlisted for the 2016 ICS photo competition, and talk about their experiences of taking the plunge and volunteering overseas.

The photo competition finds the very best of photos brought back by the thousands of ICS volunteers who return each year from working with some of the poorest communities around the world. Competition was fierce this year with more than 300 talented photographers from 22 countries submitting their favourite shots in the categories ‘Voice’, ‘Enterprise’, ‘People’, ‘Environment’ and ‘Education’. I heard from the volunteers that over 32,000 people visited the voting webpage to decide the shortlisted entries, which were displayed in Parliament, and will be showcased around the UK in 2017.

Among the volunteers at the exhibition was Lydia Daintith from West Lancashire, who snapped a beautiful shot of a local woman praying to the side during a church service in her host community.

“Religion is a big part of the Zimbabwean culture and this photo captures a raw, intimate moment between a woman and her creator,” said Lydia.

Also attending was Hayley Pang from South West Hertfordshire, who volunteered working with local entrepreneurs in Zanzibar to help grow their businesses, look at other ways to support their income and provide employment. In her picture are the three leaders of Mr Pili Pili, a chilli sauce start-up.

“Across the duration of the ICS placement, we have worked with a farmer group helping them to brand, produce, package and market some delicious chilli sauce they make with their own freshly grown produce. Before we left, we were sure to carefully select and hand over Mr Pili Pili to the farmers themselves. What a project to be part of!” said Hayley.

It was inspiring to meet the young and brilliant volunteers and hear about their experiences on the ICS programme. The volunteers are passionate advocates for the impressive work that British aid money is making possible in some of the poorest communities around the world.

All UK ICS volunteers live and work alongside young people from the countries where they are placed and contribute to programmes and projects that last longer than just the 12 weeks that they are in the country. ICS support means that a diverse range of UK young people can take the opportunity to fight poverty overseas, while also gaining indispensable skills as well as making a contribution to their own communities once they return. ICS volunteers are passionate about making positive change, and I urge young people to look it up and seriously consider applying.

ICS volunteers, aged 18-25, work on long-term projects that seek to help bring about an end to poverty in some of the poorest communities in the world. The scheme offers young people the chance to gain valuable new skills, whilst working on projects that make a genuine difference to the people they work with and their communities. Those aged 23-35 can also apply to be ICS team leaders.

The ICS scheme is funded by the UK Government, so young people don’t need cash, qualifications or work experience to take part, just the desire to make a difference to the lives of some of the world’s poorest communities. If accepted onto a placement, volunteers also commit to take part in an ‘Action at Home’ where they take part in, or organise an event or activity, where they directly contribute to their local communities.

Felicity Morgan, Director of ICS, said:

“It’s great to get the support of CFID and I couldn’t agree more that more young people should consider applying to volunteer abroad through the ICS programme. We’re passionate about supporting young people from across the UK and using their energy to tackle poverty overseas while also making a contribution to their communities back home. Our experience of working with young people shows they really can take on the big issues and make a difference in people’s lives.”

To find out more about ICS or to apply, visit www.volunteerics.org.
All of the shortlisted entries are online at: