By -Uzoamaka Nwachukwu
International Citizens Service (ICS) programme would always remain ?a journey of guided learning? for both the volunteers, team leaders and everyone involved. What really makes ICS stand out is that the programme avails you the opportunity to learn every day.
Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) is no doubt one of the world?s leading development organizations. It has played various wonderful roles in the development sector of Nigeria and other countries of the world by making use of young people between the ages of 18 and 25 to drive for change using volunteerism as a tool.
Some of us would be wondering why youth for development? According to the British Council, the UK?s international organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations, ?Youths and not oil is Nigeria?s most valuable resources in this 21st century?. To this effect, VSO took a bold step to make this come to a reality.
Volunteering is relatively a new concept in Nigeria because most young person thinks of financial gains, not what they can do to put a smile on the faces of others. On the positive side, there is a growing recognition of its development impact in combating poverty.
Everywhere in the world, we are witnessing the emergence of young people manifesting their demand for more and better civil, social and political citizenship. More active involvement of youth in governance can play indispensable role in achieving sustainable human development. Given that youth constitute over 60% of the population of Lagos State makes them an important constituency, and by improving their level of participation in governance they will invariably become drivers for peace and development in Lagos State and beyond. To this effect, VSO decided to send young people to help make this dreams and vision achievable.
MY JOURNEY THUS FAR
My name is Uzoamaka Nwachukwu from Abia State located at the Eastern part of Nigeria. I served first as a volunteer and next as one of the team leaders with Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) on the ICS programme with placement in Ikorodu, Lagos State ? Nigeria. I was privileged to lead a team of 20 volunteers to carry out a project on ?Youth Participation in Governance? with partnership support from an NGO known as Women Advocate Research and Documentation Centre (WARD C).
Being a team leader on the ICS programme was really a great privilege and I am so glad to have taken part in it because it has indeed been a life-changing experience for me and an eye-opener. When I told friends and relatives that I was coming back to volunteer as a team leader, all I got were negative comments and critics but to me I knew that developing great leadership skills could really play a large role in my career development and to help me move forward, I needed some skills such as the ability to be a good leader. To this effect, I decided to take a bold step in applying for the post of a team leader.
Coming into the programme as a team leader, I was determined to improve my leadership skill, improve on my conflict resolution skill and mentor volunteers and young people in the community by helping them inform their career decisions.
I have learnt to be a great listener, not to discriminate amongst nationalities, improve in my problem solving skills and most especially improve my patience and tolerance level. My greatest happiness when leaving the programme as a team leader was that I was able to mentor and pastor most of the volunteers and helped them achieve their personal aims and objectives. It wasn?t easy achieving all of these but with patience and tolerance, I was able to overcome and made the programme a success.
Being a team leader has enabled me gain practical experience of what leading others entails and has made me set my priorities rightly and correctly. When I was told I would be leading the team to Ikorodu which happened to be where I volunteered in June 2014, I felt I was familiar with the environs and that there was nothing fascinating or interesting to learn again but to my greatest imagination, it was indeed ?a journey of guided learning? because daily, I got to learn something new and inspiring about people, behaviours and development in general. Thanks to ICS for giving me a worthwhile experience in leadership.
OUR ACHIEVEMENT AS A TEAM
In VSO, T.E.A.M is our watch word (Together Everyone Achieves More) and so on getting to Ikorodu, we discovered that young people in the community never had a proper idea of what their civic responsibilities were and the whole idea of good governance. We did not just sit and watch, but worked together to achieve change.
First of all, an action research was carried out by Volunteers to find out the number of available youth neighborhood parliaments and youths in governance with focus on inclusion of gender and disability in youth participation. Next, Volunteers supported to provide training on policy analysis skills, leadership development, management skills, communication to enable young people gained appropriate knowledge of issues in their community. To this effect, we can successfully say that Young people have gained full understanding of their civic responsibilities and have begun to take actions.
Volunteers also produced an action plan for improving youth participation in governance. Youths in the community in return began to engage government at ward and LGA levels on youth specific outcomes. This success is attributed to them been able to draft a charter of demand which would be used to engage forth coming leaders and hold them accountable for their promises and actions.
The ICS volunteering programme is one with a difference. The power of bringing people together is what you would enjoy on the team and you would be surprised to know that cash or qualifications are not required. All that is needed is the ambition to make a positive impact in the community. It?s a cross-cultural programme which brings young people from the UK and around Nigeria to work in a given community.
Indeed, it has been an achievement volunteering for change in my own little way. ?Challenge yourself to change the world in your own little way?.