Volunteering overseas: The journey of a lifetime

16 February 2017

Since stepping foot in my local YMCA in Newcastle fifteen years ago, I’ve been lucky enough to have had experiences with the movement in four continents. From my first trip to India aged 17 for the 150th anniversary of the Paris Basis to more recently representing Y Care International at the World Council in Colorado, each of these experiences has shown me just how special the YMCA is in all the different countries we work in.

I want young people from YMCAs all over the UK to have the same chances and see the YMCA from a new perspective, make lifelong friends and gain skills and confidence in the process. So I feel very fortunate to be able to share Y Care International’s overseas volunteering opportunity with them as part of my job.

Our International Citizen Service (ICS) is a life changing opportunity for young people aged 18-25 and youth workers (up to age 35) to volunteer to make a different in the world’s poorest communities for up to three months at no cost to you.  You could switch a summer in Bournemouth for one in Bangladesh, go from Southend to Senegal, leave Leicester for Liberia, trade Tollcross for Togo or swap Sheffield for Sierra Leone and work alongside local young volunteers on YMCA youth driven community projects.

We’re accepting applications now to be able to go away as soon as this summer and I would encourage all young people to grab this opportunity and see what difference they can make. A big part of ICS is helping others but young people will come back will loads of new skills. And for YMCA staff applying as team leaders, the experience of ICS will turn you into Super Youth Worker 2.0!

I have seen hundreds of young people take on the challenge of ICS and make huge difference to the lives of young people all over the world. They volunteer with YMCAs for three months of their lives but they experience stays with them a lot longer. And it doesn’t end when they get back home.  Once returned, ICS volunteers take action in their own communities, sometimes in their local YMCA – (like Gurvir when who returned from Bangladesh and ran workshops in Thames Gateway YMCA).

I have grown up within the YMCA movement; a huge part of that has been volunteering my time and exploring different cultures. These experiences have helped shaped me personally and professionally and ultimately have led me to where I am today.  I would encourage all young people to volunteer with ICS and take on the challenge of a lifetime and make a difference through the YMCA overseas.

Me and the team would love to bring ICS to the young people and youth workers you work with. Check out our website on how YMCAs can get involved and get in touch!

Robbie Cheyne

Senior Youth Engagement Coordinator