It was an hour into the king’s forty-ninth birthday party, and I’d just finished an interview for the local TV network when I decided volunteering overseas was probably my best life decision.

Over the next few months, I co-led an International Citizen Service (ICS) Livelihoods project in Enugu State in the south east of Nigeria. By the end of the project, I could say volunteering there was definitely my best life decision.

What is ICS?

Funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), ICS is a programme that sends young people on development projects in Africa and Asia. For 12 weeks, you work and live alongside local volunteers and families on projects such as inclusive education, sexual health or livelihoods. After your ‘cycle’ is over, another team of volunteers arrives to continue the work.

You can volunteer for ICS if you are a UK, EU or EEA citizen, or you have indefinite leave to remain in the UK, and you have lived in the UK for the past year and currently have a UK address. To volunteer you must be aged 18-25. For Team Leader it’s 23-35.

What I did

In Nigeria, there is a massive youth unemployment problem. Working with the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), I went to Enugu to work on a Livelihoods project aimed at tackling this issue.

To give you a summary: my team conducted research into youth (un)employment and entrepreneurship; this involved surveying hundreds of people in the local area. Off the back of the findings of this research, we ran training sessions with local youths aimed around helping people to move from working in the informal to the formal sector. These sessions ranged from how to construct a CV to how to prepare for interviews. As well as the training, we organised events. For example, we ran an Enterprise Afternoon for local entrepreneurs involving a panel discussion with local SME owners and a keynote speech from government official. The aim was to spread awareness about the SME financing available from the government, and to link up aspiring entrepreneurs with established entrepreneurs.

Why I recommend ICS

I offered to write this piece for the Volunteer Centre blog because I believe ICS is a fantastic opportunity for LSE students. Whether you are looking to get international development experience, changes lives, gain cross-cultural awareness, learn new skills, get out of your comfort zone, meet new people, or, simply, to ‘do your bit’, ICS offers it.

The great thing about ICS is that there is a ton of research into its effectiveness. The good news is ICS has a huge positive impact. For instance, the social returns of ICS are such that for every £1 spent on the programme, an estimated £4.64 is social value is generated. ICS is volunteering, not voluntourism.

I hope that this snippet gives you an idea of what volunteering for ICS could be like for you. The ICS programme is life-changing. I should know: it changed mine.


Feeling inspired?

If we’ve inspired you to volunteer, check out one of our other 200+ ongoing opportunities or book a one-to-one with David Coles, the Volunteer Centre Manager if you have more questions. If you are short on time, then take a look at the one-off opportunities that will return for Michaelmas Term 2019, organised by the LSE Volunteer Centre. And why not follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram to stay up-to-date with our events and opportunities and read our blog for more volunteering tips and stories.