Sunday, August 10, 2014

#IYD14: ICS, international development and the global youth

#IYD14 International Youth Day 2014 International Citizen Service UK Philippines VSO UK VSO Bahaginan Bohol Asia Asian Youth Chocolate Hills Guy Boy Tourism Smile Travel VSCO IYDS2014 Progression UKAID International Development Youth Inclusion

In celebration of this year’s International Youth Day, I look back to my International Citizen Service (ICS) experience to encourage my fellow youth to at least have a time in their lives dedicated to the pursuit of volunteering. What's special about this year is ICS turns three years old. Three years of ICS working various countries all over the world, imagine that. That's three years of connecting youth globally to work together in worthy causes. It has been a wild ride for both the program, and the thousands of youth involved I must say. For me it was.

I would like to think I have accomplished a lot in the time I was given to be an ICS volunteer. I feel I was able to learn essential skills during my placement, and was able to share the best of my abilities. I've also met incredible people who have taught me a lot with their stories, and with the time we've spent together.

Prior to ICS, I was more comfortable of keeping my work to myself. I still am more of the silent worker type until this day, but I have become more vocal about issues, and more willing to share my experiences. I’ve become more open about sharing my skills too, and have developed a keener eye in recognizing the talents and skills of other people.

I remember I was fresh out of my undergraduate degree and my first proper job after university when I did ICS. As someone who was relatively a rookie in the ‘real world’ back then, it was important for me to explore my horizons and try a lot of new things. ICS was one of those opportunities that opened up. After learning about the program, I was determined to spend three months of my life as an ICS youth volunteer.

Volunteering at a young age challenges one’s pre-conceived notion of himself. I was adventurous, gutsy and already a risk-taker even before ICS, but it was through the said volunteering experience where I got to test the limits of my strengths, and learned to adjust to various situation you might not experience elsewhere.

ICS not only takes you to a lot of unfamiliar situations, it also challenges you to various cultural adjustments in working and living with your youth counterparts who might not come from the same country, or same community as you do. ICS’ numerous day-to-day challenges has gained me more confidence in my skills, and trained me to adjust in different situations may it be organizing activities in a rural town setting, or presenting in big national and international conferences.

Volunteering young also opens a number of opportunities. My ICS experience has enabled me to participate in various national and international events and conferences. After ICS, I participated in the ADB Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors, the 1st Asian Youth Forum last 2013 in India, the ADB International Skills Development Forum, and a lot more. In these opportunities I get to share the benefits of volunteering work, my passion for youth inclusion, environment and youth development as well as my voice as a part of the youth sector. I also got to widen my network of friends whom I occasionally help out in their own projects, or have them help in mine.

Aside from all these, what’s great about volunteering young is that you can use your natural skills and talents to be of benefit to your chosen work. In my time as a volunteer, I used my communication skills to write various articles to promote the program, tell stories about our day-to-day lives in the field, speak to large audiences about our work, work with local youth and government officials, and so much more. Volunteering young helps you discover what you're good at in a real-world setting, enables you build a lot of confidence you never thought you can have, and encourages you to use your skills to be of good use to the community.

The youth bring a fresh energy to the world of international development and volunteering. Wherever the youth are, there's always that rush of life and vigor that's just so electric and contagious. I have also noticed that us youth also bring new innovations and ingenious ways of solving various development challenges. It's actually an exciting time to be young as a lot of international organizations and governments are now considering the youth not as liabilities, but as partners in development.

These days, we hear a lot of young people being participatory, active in various sectors such as businesses, youth inclusion, youth development, environment, advocacy work, and much more – using their talents in more diverse ways than ever. This is a good thing both in an individual level, and in a global community level.

Young people around the world can help each other and share their skills by being active in their respective advocacy. It is when we’re being proactive in our causes and passions that we get to meet other young people who are just as active and passionate. Until now I still heed to the call of volunteering in contributing to various initiatives, and by simply doing more than a hundred percent of my abilities in the tasks I'm taking on. I guess the volunteering spirit I gained with ICS will never go away. 

 Have a meaningful International Youth Day fellow change makers!

Tomorrow, on International Youth Day 2014 itself, ICS and ActionAid will conduct a global Twitter jam! Follow and participate in tomorrow's discussion with the hashtag #IYD14. The said online event will happen at 12NN-2PM UK time. Follow ICS UK on Twitter and don't forget to like ICS Philippines' Facebook page, the main ICS Facebook page, and of course, ActionAid's Facebook page. If you're from the United Kingdom, apply for an ICS placement here. If you're from the Philippines, apply for an ICS placement here