Burkina Faso – the first chapter
In less than two weeks' time I will be flying to Ouagadougou, the fantastically named capital of Burkina Faso, to begin a three-month volunteering project run by the International Service.
The International Service is an international development charity that aims to support people in practical ways and help them change their lives for the better. Myself and four other International Citizen Service (ICS) volunteers will be working to support the needs of one of their partner agencies, Tigoung Nonma, a co-operative that aims to improve the quality of life of artisans with physical disabilities.
Children at a new school in Laongo, Burkina Faso take a break for lunch. Picture: Andrew Testa/Panos
My journey to become an International Citizen Service volunteer began when a university friend told me about an interesting project. I read about ICS online and applied almost immediately through the International Service. Within ten days I was invited to an assessment day in York. This consisted of a small group exercise and an interview with two of the International Service team.
After a month I was informed that I had been successful and had secured a place working in my first choice country, Burkina Faso. I also found out that I would be working to market and promote the work of Tigoung Nonma. Having recently completed a marketing internship for the international charity, Water Aid, I felt excited that I would have skills to apply and develop on this particular project.
In early December, like all ICS volunteers, I undertook an intensive three-day training weekend. About 70 volunteers attended and each day we were split into the same three groups, allowing us to get to know the other volunteers on our placement.
The information provided was extremely useful: we learnt more about our placement countries; discussed topics such as, 'What is International Development?'; and received important information regarding issues such as personal health and hygiene.
Our brilliant group trainer managed to hold our attention through the use of exciting games and role play. Aspects of the weekend reminded me of my first week at university - three days were spent absorbing information and meeting a lot of new, like-minded young people. In the evening we were free to socialise and relax. We filled our time chatting and playing games in the pub, exploring York city centre and watching the X Factor final!
My parents travelled a lot when they were younger and their passion for exploring the world and experiencing different cultures has definitely rubbed off on my brother and me. At the age of 18 I spent eight months working as a teacher, speaking Spanish and living with a family in a traditional Mexican fishing village. I have been lucky enough to visit a number of countries, but I believe it was this total immersion and experience of a different way of life that confirmed my desire to pursue a career in international development. I'm now very excited about going away and beginning my ICS adventure!