Rhys volunteered with Restless Development ICS in Nepal. Since he got home, Rhys been spreading the word about his placement as well as building on the skills and experiences he developed in Nepal through his Action at Home activities and other opportunities.
"As part of my Action at Home I focused mainly on increasing the profile of ICS in my local area. Merthyr Tydfil, my hometown, is not a well-off area. Many young people in Merthyr live on a very low income or are unemployed. What work there is in the local area is predominantly part-time, low-skilled service sector work, and so many young people fail to develop and maintain employable skills that will stand them in good stead.
"The South Wales Valleys region, with Merthyr at its heart, is among the poorest areas in the European Union. Given the state of things in Merthyr and throughout the South Wales Valleys, I wanted to increase the profile of the ICS programme in order to get more young people from Wales involved in the programme.
"With this goal in mind, I bombarded every Sixth Form college and secondary school within a 25-mile radius of my home, explaining who I was, what I’d done, and asking to speak to their sixth form students about the ICS programme. Local youth groups, such as the Air Cadets, also got the same treatment. So in I went, armed with my little Prezi presentation and a video of our time in Nepal made by my good friend Rebecca Butcher.
"A number of young people I spoke to afterwards told me that they would be applying for the ICS programme, which genuinely thrilled me. I received phone calls from teachers asking for more information, more resources and requests to return to the school to speak again.
"I also helped out at some official ICS events, at a careers fair at the University of South Wales and at a Restless Development selection day. We managed to get over 100 people at the careers fair to sign up to receive more information from ICS, a lot of whom seemed really keen on the idea of volunteering abroad.
"I haven’t yet reached nearly as many people as I want to. I’ll definitely be continuing my Action at Home long into the future, and diversifying what I do as part of my Action at Home as well. I’m especially keen on doing work supporting those with HIV/AIDS, and raising awareness of sexual health issues and gender discrimination. These are areas that really resonated with me, as a result of my time in Nepal and other factors (Merthyr Tydfil has among the highest rates for teenage pregnancy in Wales and England). I’ll be looking more carefully into how to help with these issues.
"It would be easier to list the things I didn’t learn or improve upon during my ICS experience. In terms of experience and new skills, ICS is the single most valuable thing I’ve done. If I had to highlight just one skill that I’ve learned as a result of my ICS experience, it would be the ability to conceive, plan and organise a big event, budgeting for it and hastily adapting when things inevitably go wrong.
"I’m currently in a new job, which I attribute entirely to my time with ICS. My employment record prior to July 2013 wasn’t great, and I struggled to secure any interviews. One month after returning from Nepal I was begging interviewers to change my offered slots, as they conflicted with other interviews. So now I work for a charity in London, which is grand.
"ICS had its highs, and did it have its lows, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat, warts and all. Best thing I’ve ever done."