The International Citizen Service (ICS) program is a personal growth learning opportunity for young people from the UK and the host country to work together for 3 months in rural communities. The overarching objective of the program is to foster personal development, larger development impact, and active citizenship. ICS Uganda is located in the sub-counties of Kayunga and Iganga in Eastern Uganda and is run by our office in Jinja.
How does it work?
The ICS pairs local Ugandan volunteers with UK-based volunteers before the program begins. Both the UK and Ugandan volunteers take part in a 2-week foundation training at the very beginning of their placements. During the training, they learn a range of topics including HIV-AIDS, menstrual hygiene, teenage pregnancy, livelihoods, and general life skills for in and out of school young people. The trainees learn important skills on creating informal dialogues with community leaders, government officials, religious leaders, parents and children, and other decision makers.
Caption: UK and Uganda volunteers.
This training means that the UK volunteers can support ICS project’s activities effectively and understand how they contribute to a wider program of development work.
In-country placements lasts for 10-12 weeks. UK volunteers live and work with their Ugandan counterparts, working in teams to become an integral part in the community, on exciting and valuable projects that are a part of a wider development program and where the objectives are set in partnership with the target communities.
Our programme staff and the ICS Team Leaders support both the UK and national volunteers throughout their experience.
The biggest impact is the cultural exchange of the volunteers from diverse backgrounds, and the opportunity to to work together in a new and unfamiliar setting.
In October 2015, when the ICS programme was first launched, the community was cautious and did not understand the impact this programme would bring to their lives. Currently, community members seek out ICS volunteers to host and enjoy the cultural exchange. In addition, some of the key achievements so far:
Built the capacity of over 240 young leaders in community integration, youth engagement and participation as well as equipping them with knowledge and skills to train young people on issues of SRHR, youth livelihoods and active citizenship.
Organized a number of community health days where community members come together to clean their communities. As a result of this initiative, the Iganga district local government officially declared every last Thursday of the month a clean-up day. The clean-ups have continued to happen even without the volunteer’s presence.
Similarly, in Kayunga, ICS volunteers wrote a proposal to the district local government suggesting to have a Kayunga community day where volunteers, community members, health centre staff and our partner CARA come together on a monthly basis to clean Kayunga Referral Hospital. The proposal was approved and the local government committed to provide detergent and equipment as their contribution to the clean-up exercise. During this day, CARA provides health services like HIV testing, family planning, counselling and guidance to the community members.
Recognising global warming as a universal challenge, ICS volunteers in partnership with the National Forestry Authority and Kayunga local government distributed 15,000 seedlings to community members. Communities were sensitised on the importance of conserving our environment and a majority of the households planted at least one tree in their compound.
In one of the districts where we work, a teacher was marrying off his own students and also had multiple wives himself. ICS volunteers were outraged and brought this issue to the Resident District Commissioner and District Education Officer who initiated a movement against early marriages and school drop outs. These officials have now focused more on ensuring education for young girls and bringing early marriage practices to an end, thanks in part to ICS volunteers.