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Is global citizenship on the decline? Six ICS alumni speak out

With rapid advances in technology and travel, for many of us it seems that the world is constantly getting smaller. Almost the whole world is connected, increasing our understanding, communication and collaboration with other countries and cultures.  

As a result, opportunities to live, work and connect with people from different areas of the world are becoming a reality for more and more of us. And it’s something that a 2016 BBC study found is changing the way we see ourselves, with one in two of us identifying as ‘global citizens’. 

Yet in these turbulent times it can often feel like the enthusiasm for global citizenship may be on the decline. This month we asked six ICS alumni why open, international thinking matters more now than ever. 

Kenyan volunteer smiling at the camera
Jack volunteered in his home country Kenya in 2018.

“What happens in one part of South America affects even the remotest parts of Africa.” 

Jack Mwangi 
Balloon ICS, Kenya, 2018 

Jack volunteered in Nairobi last year and believes thinking globally is essential. 

“We live in a world so connected that what happens, say, in one end of South America affects even the remotest ends of Africa. This is a good place to start as a global citizen in the journey towards forging positive and sustainable change – starting locally but thinking globally.” 

“I continue to be inspired by my counterparts’ active citizenship.” 

Natalie Cheung 
Y Care ICS, Togo, 2017 

Girl standing in front of a painted wall in Togo
Natalie believes we have more in common than what makes us different.

Natalie, 25, from London – a two-time ICS volunteer – found that despite the differences between the cultures on her placement, it was the similarities that really stood out.  

“It's easy to us to assume that those in other countries live a completely different life. ICS showed me that we have far more in common. I'm so happy to still be in touch with the ICS volunteers and my host families in Togo and Zambia. I continue to be inspired by my counterparts' active citizenship and although we are working for different causes, it motivates me in my voluntary work at home!” 

girl standing looking at the camera and smiling in front of a notice board at an event
Faiza volunteered in Nepal back in 2015.

“Now more than ever, what matters is that partnerships can be built.”  

Faiza Amin 
VSO ICS, Nepal, 2015 

"What matters are the partnerships that can be built, the values that can be shared and the solutions to these challenges that can be found together."
ICS volunteer in Nepal

Partnerships in the interconnected world are necessary to combat current issues – something Faiza learnt whilst on her ICS placement. 

“Today’s global challenges are bigger than the small stories we’re currently being told about: the need to look inwards, draw harder borders and think only of ourselves. Now more than ever, what matters are the partnerships that can be built, the values that can be shared and the solutions to these challenges that can be found together. My ICS experience was the start of my journey in understanding this.” 

A girl with a headscarf and ICS tshirt smiles at the camera
“The friendship between me and my counterpart feels like it will last forever."

“Once we’ve destroyed our planet, there’s no going back.” 

Raabia Hussain 
VSO ICS, Kenya, 2019 

Raabia was the team leader on our recent Deaf project in Kenya. Here, she was amazed at the beautiful friendship she created with her counterpart and host family despite their different backgrounds and cultures.  

“The friendship between me and my counterpart feels like it will last forever. ICS has taught me that it is important to bond with people from all around the world. It is the only way that we can understand each other's lives and know how to help. Thinking globally is important because we are living together in one world. It is important for us to take care of it because once it is destroyed there is no going back.“ 

“ICS was my first step in feeling responsibility in the world.” 

Corinna Herriot
ICS VSO, Uganda, 2018 

Girl's headshot, smiling at the camera
Corinna's ICS placement took her out of her "UK bubble."

For Corinna, the ICS placement in Uganda took her out of her ‘UK bubble’ and was an experience to be shared at every opportunity.  

“I always talk about my experience in Uganda when I meet new people. As the world 'shrinks' and everything becomes more interconnected and interdependent, it is up to us as global citizens to make our voices heard and fight the good fight. ICS is your first step to developing yourself as a person, to feel a sense of responsibility with the communities you will work with and become attached to.”  

Girl stood smiling at camera
"We need a united front and collective participation."

“We need synergy and collaboration, not competition.” 

Freda Nyame 
Balloon ICS, Ghana, 2017 

Freda volunteered as a team leader and believes that one individual cannot solve the world’s problems. Instead, working together on a global scale will lead to the sharing of knowledge, ideas and skills.  

“I believe the world is a global village, and whatever problem affects one person, community or country affects the next person, community and country. In order to address these problems, we need a united front and collective participation."

"Global citizenship means to me that we share each other’s burden and success, regardless of race, creed, or status. We need synergy and collaboration, not competition," said Freda. 

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ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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