Here’s an interesting news item from Third Sector:
The managing director of Projects Abroad is stating that the expansion of the ICS scheme to up to 7000 placements will take business away from companies that offer gap year projects.
The International Citizen Service programme is UK government funded and allows young people from any background to volunteer overseas. The scheme is being implemented by a consortium of international development charities, led by VSO. I am a big supporter of this programme because it doesn’t cost thousands of pounds to participate. It actively encourages young people who may not consider a gap year or trip overseas a possibility to volunteer and get involved in development projects. VSO has been operating an excellent youth programme called Global Exchange for many years now and it has been highly successful in fostering cross cultural exchanges, with small groups of young people from the UK and from a developing country working together as a team on projects both overseas and in deprived areas of the UK.
Companies like Projects Abroad offer many great opportunities to volunteer but these are only available to those who can finance it. Even trying to fundraise the amount of money needed for the projects is challenging, especially for someone who hasn’t come from a relatively affluent background.
The type of projects being offered by the ICS scheme are different to those offered by the gap year companies, as they are structured development projects, usually placing young people in local community organisations, working alongside local young people. One of the organisations, Restless Development, describes what volunteers will be doing on their 12 week placements:
“As we focus on the issues that most effect young people, it is likely that you will be helping us to address crucial issues such as sexual and reproductive health (including HIV), unemployment and other factors that contribute to poverty. Importantly, you will also be helping young people become leaders of their own development.”
I’m not sure how Projects Abroad can challenge the ICS scheme when it gives the opportunity for thousands more people to volunteer and builds the capacity of communities in developing countries. Rather than take “business” away from the companies running volunteering schemes, it will create funded opportunities for less-priviledged young people to experience another culture and make a difference.