International Citizen Service (ICS), the government funded volunteering programme that sent over 1200 UK young people to developing countries last year, positively changed poor communities and engaged diverse groups of young volunteers.
According to an independent evaluation of its pilot year, ICS is ‘highly innovative and designed to push the boundaries of international youth volunteering programmes’, has positively changed disadvantaged communities and appealed to young people from lower income backgrounds.
Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening said:
"This report shows just how positive the International Citizen Service pilot has been. The volunteers have done a great job, and as well as making a real contribution to development in the countries in which they’ve worked, they will bring back skills and knowledge which will help them in their own lives.”
ICS is a development programme that brings together young people aged 18-25 to fight poverty and currently works in 28 developing countries across the world. ICS is delivered by a consortium of respected development organisations, led by VSO, working with Restless Development, International Service, Raleigh International, Tearfund and Progressio. All volunteers work on projects that fit into broader development programmes.
After the success of the pilot, the ICS consortium has received funding until 2015 from the Department for International Development (DFID), and aims to recruit and train 7,000 UK young people and 7,000 young people from developing countries who will go on to become active citizenswho are passionate about and involved in community-based volunteering.
Key findings from the report included:
- 88 per cent of overseas partners rated volunteers as either ‘useful’ or ‘very useful’;
- More young people want to tackle social issues with 86 per cent of volunteers reporting their understanding of the rights and responsibilities of active citizens after the programme (compared to 58 per cent before the programme);
- The report states that ICS appealed to young people “who wouldn’t normally volunteer abroad” – over three quarters of volunteers were from lower household income groups;
- Placing volunteers in ‘host homes’* was a big success and increased the depth of community level experience for volunteers and also improved cost efficiency; and
- Working with volunteers from the developing country was very effective. They help achieve development impact and inspire future generations of people involved in and passionate about community-based volunteering.
Findings from the ICS pilot are being used to shape the full programme, in particular by working towards all volunteers experiencing living in host homes and working with more volunteers from developing countries.
Nik Hartley, Restless Development Chief Executive, said; “Restless Development has been working to give young people a leading role in development for over 25 years. This independent evaluation of the International Citizen Service programme highlights the unique contribution of national and international volunteers working together to bring about clear development outcomes. Restless Development has reflected at length upon the learnings generated from the pilot, and is delighted to have built these learnings into a three year scaled up programme that give a central stage to the contribution of young people to international development”.
Some examples of what ICS volunteers achieved during the pilot:
- Working with local young people to start the first school club for disabled and vulnerable children in southern Ethiopia;
- Organising over 800 young people in Kenya to spread the word on how to reduce the rate of HIV/AIDS;
- Helping further develop a Namibian Government initiative to promote after-school education clubs and libraries; and
- Helping educate local groups in the diagnosis and referral of young people in the Philippines for tuberculosis treatment.
* Host homes – where volunteers live with families from the communities they are working alongside to promote community integration.