SLV.Global to NCS... and Back Again
"I graduated from university with one aspiration: I wanted to help other people.
I started my quest by volunteering abroad with SLV.Global in Sri Lanka, it was a completely different world. There are some things you just cannot learn volunteering in the United Kingdom. Whether that’s how to make sure your resources for a project survive a 20 minute bus journey in 30 degree heat, with a small child sat on your lap, or being flexible when you arrive at a project and there are significantly more service users there than you anticipated. You learn to think on your feet when working with a variety of service users with a huge range of needs.
In Sri Lanka, facilities are scarce and it’s not uncommon to find service users with a variety of needs, whether mental health or additional learning needs, using the same community centre, school or half-way home. When volunteering with SLV.Global, I was able to gain a wealth of experience with service users with a range of mental health, additional learning and physical needs in a short 12 weeks. All whilst learning about the spectacular culture, trying desperately to get a social media-ready tan and eating as much rice and curry as I could get my hands on.
It was after having taught a class of young people how to play rounders using solely hand gestures and facial expressions (I didn’t speak more than 5 words of Sinhala), that a fellow volunteer commented: “Have you ever heard of the NCS?”
I hadn’t heard of the NCS programme or their mission but armed with leadership experience, communication skills and a sense of humour, I applied to become a Team Leader. During the application process, the National Citizen Service (NCS) thought my skills were better suited in a different role and asked me to be a Youth Programme Leader - responsible for pastoral care of young people and overseeing the delivery of the NCS programme. On the NCS programme, I was able to use several skills I had learned whilst on placement in Sri Lanka to keep young people and staff motivated to succeed. I loved being able to create an environment where staff and young people could talk about their opinions openly without fear of repercussion.
I’ll never forget running a workshop about community on the programme and asking the young people to get into groups according to communities they belong to. One group was formed because the young people were part of the LGBT community, I was so proud that the young people could trust one another, and the staff, enough to talk about that openly. The most important lesson we can teach the next generation is that our actions have consequences but that we can decide whether those consequences are positive or negative. To see a group of young people arrive on day one of the programme, nervous and shy transform into an outgoing and respectful group of young men and women is remarkable. It always surprises me that this is achievable in three weeks due to the hard work and dedication of the staff team.
When you work with NCS, you’re working to create a more integrated society where its members are open and accepting of one another, whilst respecting each other’s differences by investing in younger generations.
The fantastic thing about NCS and SLV.Global is that there are always more opportunities! Like the participants of the NCS programme, both organisations stay in touch to offer exciting new ventures. Having worked as a Youth Programme Leader for four waves, I knew how to stay calm in potentially stressful situations and the importance of remaining positive when trying to organise a staff team and up to 70 young people! I applied to volunteer in Bali with SLV again as a Coordinator and was asked to work as part of the senior management team as a Supervisor. Once again, I travelled to a complete different world.
We visited projects where I met and was able to help some of the most gracious and beautiful people I have ever met. The service users in Bali adored working with our volunteers and it made staying up to ensure we had everything we need for our projects the following day more than worth it. Between teaching children with hearing impairments to play games using solely our hand gestures or creating art projects that focused on identity with wheelchair users, I may have shed a few tears of joy. SLV.Global have been fortunate enough to visit mental health facilities in Indonesia to run sessions to promote positive mental health where no other Western organisations have visited. It was a truly incredible experience.
Once you have your foot in the door with NCS or SLV.Global, you become part of a family. I love meeting people who have previously worked with the organisations and sharing our experiences. You don’t know, unless you know. Whether it’s staying up late to ensure that your project is prepared for or staying up late to help a young person who have never been on a residential trip. Furthermore, NCS and SLV.Global recognise one another! Anyone who has worked the NCS programme has the essential experience required to do a placement with SLV.Global. Anyone who works the NCS with The Challenge can fundraise in that role for their place on an SLV.Global placement! The door is never closed with either organisations, I currently work for The Challenge, the main provider for the NCS programme, helping candidates with their applications to work on the summer programme.
I have helped young people overcome anxiety when meeting new people. I have helped children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in Bali feel confident enough to work in groups. I have helped women in a halfway home use creativity to highlight traits that make them unique. I have helped staff members manage difficult and potentially stressful situations.
Mission complete, if I do say so myself."
We have partnered with NCS (a youth empowerment programme, currently recruiting for over 4.5K paid short-term roles this summer) to offer SLV.Global participants and alumni a fast track code for their roles.
To do this, you must use this referral code: SLV0217FT and, when asked, to quote “SLV” when starting a new application. Click here for more information and to apply!