What’s an ICS returned volunteer weekend like?

What’s an ICS returned volunteer weekend like?

Tori on placement in Mtwara, Tanzania | VSO ICS

Tori Keegan volunteered with VSO International Citizen Service (ICS) in Mtwara, Tanzania, for 10 weeks between August and October 2015.

She reports back from her returned volunteer weekend, an event all British volunteers are invited to when they return the UK, and shares her thoughts on staying involved.

Together again

Tori with her ICS team volunteering in Tanzania | VSO ICS

Whilst I was on placement in Tanzania, the returned volunteer weekend seemed so far away - but since I got back home I have been excited to learn how to apply what we’ve gained through ICS to our everyday lives.

It was great to see my fellow Tanzania volunteers as well as meeting some new ICS volunteers from other placements – that is of course once we’d gotten over the initial shock of seeing everyone in jeans, (not baggy patterned elephant trousers), and wearing make-up! Over the weekend, we realised how close we all were from our time spent working together and we’ve all got plans to meet up in the future.

Help with getting a job

When my ICS placement finished I really struggled to tell people anything more than “it was good,” because there was so much to say and I had no idea where to begin. This weekend got us thinking about how to communicate our experience effectively to potential employers, as well as friends and family.

Taking action

The final part of the ICS programme, Action at Home and active citizenship, is all about using the skills developed during your in-country placement and applying them in the UK to bring about social change. Now I’ve returned home I know there are so many opportunities I can get involved in so that I can contribute to the world around me.

We did our first Action at Home project over the weekend, creating a video campaigning on an issue we feel passionate about. My group chose gender inequality, as it was something we encountered whilst working in Mtwara.

To raise awareness about this, and to provoke viewers to start thinking about how these issues affect life in the UK, our video showed statements of traditional gender stereotypes. At the end of our video, we challenged viewers to swap clothes with a member of the opposite sex to get people thinking about gender equality.

Our video was designed to catch the attention of anyone on social media, and was so popular that we won the competition for the weekend’s best Action at Home.

Gaining confidence

Tori volunteering with young people in Tanzania on VSO ICS

The weekend helped us all see how easy it is to get involved with campaigns and how to make small positive changes in our own communities.

During my time in Tanzania we could see just how easy it would be for children and teenagers to get behind in their education – either due to their responsibilities in the home and with the family, or even just due to the ‘norm’ of what their friends were doing, especially girls.

To address this problem in my community I’ve become a mentor for young girls, to encourage their ambition, empowerment and achieve their goals. This will also help me continue to develop my facilitation skills now the placement has finished, and will also count towards my Action at Home.

The weekend has also inspired and encouraged me to continue campaigning for gender equality in my local community, so I’ve signed up to a local feminist group and will be getting involved in International Women’s Day in March. 

Tori is a volunteer with the VSO ICS programme. Find out more about youth volunteering and how to apply.

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