Teresa Valente is a third year Psychology student at the University of Bedfordshire, from Portugal.
I always wanted to volunteer abroad but the high cost of schemes always stopped me from doing it. Earlier this year, I came across an advert “Volunteer abroad, you don’t need cash, skills or qualifications – just ambition to make a difference”. This looked perfect for me, an undergraduate looking to gain some experience during summer.
In April, I applied to ICS. Four months later I was heading to Ghana with International Service! International Citizen Service is a volunteering abroad scheme for young individuals aged between 18 – 25 and all the costs are paid by the government. You only have to fundraise money to show your commitment.
I worked in partnership with Ghanaian volunteers on a project run by international development organisation “International Service”, as part of the ICS programme. TradeAid Integrated’s project focussed on improving the capacity building of the crafts groups and increasing their presence in the market.
ICS volunteers aged 18 – 25, work on long-term projects that seek to end poverty in some of the poorest countries in the world. The scheme offers young people the chance to gain valuable new skills while working on projects that make a genuine difference to the people they work with and their communities.
My placement in Bolga was challenging, but really rewarding and I made a contribution to reducing poverty in the local community. The experiences I had there will stay with me forever. From eating with my hands, to meeting the first lady of Ghana. From attending a catholic church, to praying in a mosque wearing traditional clothes. The best part of this experience was meeting people from different backgrounds and cultures but with one shared goal to make the world a better place.
To other students thinking about volunteering my response is: Go! Do not think twice! I always say to others to get involved in the local community. It is always great to change others’ lives and develop ourselves. Moreover, going internationally, you leave a bigger mark on the world and have a once in a lifetime experience.
This experience made my uncomfortable zone become comfortable and equipped me with skills which are vital for my future.