Idayat Odeleye tells how an IGFV helped her volunteer in Uganda
In October 2018, I decided to take up a volunteering placement with ICS (International Citizen Service) & Restless Development. This was made possible as I got a £400 Individual Grant for Volunteering (IGfV) from the Jack Petchey Foundation. The Jack Petchey Foundation was set up by Sir Jack Petchey CBE to inspire and celebrate young people. Since 2000, they’ve invested over £124 million in programmes to benefit young people aged 11-25 across London and Essex. They offer IGfV grants to young people from London and Essex who want to volunteer abroad and need help with the travel costs.
Restless Development works with young people so that they can lead in solving some of the biggest challenges we face in our world. Their work under the ICS programme relates to educating young people on sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), employability and civic participation.
My placement was 10 weeks long and based in Uganda, in the district of Kayunga. We taught SRHR sessions in secondary schools, we taught out of school youth mainly about livelihoods and employability (and touched on SRHR as appropriate), we held weekly community events to help raise awareness on different topics, and we also hosted a Youth Resource Corner in a local clinic; where we encouraged young people to come and seek advice on things like pad making, proper use of contraceptives etc.
Delivering in-school sessions was the most rewarding part of the placement. The direct results were immediately visible. The students would often tell us how much they enjoyed the sessions whether it was because they learnt something new, or because they enjoyed the activities and games that we encouraged them to take part in. Even more satisfying for us as volunteers was hearing how our sessions had helped them in their real lives, for example, one student sought out medical help for her extreme PMS after we conducted a session on menstruation.
The knowledge that we’d helped so many with our in-school work helped motivate us at times when the placement was challenging. In the beginning, our out of school youth groups weren’t nearly as receptive to us and sometimes didn’t show up for sessions at all, but because we knew that there was potential for them to benefit from new knowledge, we kept adapting our methods i.e. changing to more convenient locations, days and times, providing learning materials and so on.
I also gained a lot. My biggest take away from this experience was discovering that I’m more flexible than I’d previously thought. During the initial stages of the project I remember looking around at my fellow volunteers and worrying about how difficult it would be to get along with people from different backgrounds to me, people who weren’t the same age as me, and people who had different motivations from me for being on the placement. In hindsight, these worries were probably very normal, and I’m sure other people felt the same to some degree.
This changed however. I was based in a town called Nazigo and ended up bonding so well with my team mates that I feel I’ve made some friends for life. We were united in achieving our goals. We were in Nazigo for a reason (to implement the programme), and that came before everything else.
Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment also showed me just how flexible I can be. The food was different to what I was used to, my host home had different amenities in comparison to my own home, and I was living and working with people who started off as complete strangers to me. I came through that being able to say that I fully enjoyed my ICS experience.