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The importance of storytelling

Every year, International Citizen Service (ICS) runs a Photo Competition, to capture the experience of volunteers as they go on placements around the world, living and working in the communities and working on projects as diverse as education, sanitation, livelihoods and gender and social inclusion.

For years, human beings have used stories as a way of connecting with others and sharing their experiences with one another. They have told stories out loud, written them down and shared images to convey who they are and how they see the world around them.

Amy Smith's winning entry
Amy Smith's winning entry

This year, we saw just over 300 entries submitted giving the judges sneak peeks into host family homes, moments captured during project work, and stories of people and places told by volunteers as they saw it. What stands out most is the unbelievable diversity of volunteer perspectives in what they have chosen to capture and share and in the impact and scale of ICS placements around the world.

Amy Smith’s winning portrait of Maria Fulgencio, depicts an elderly Nicaraguan woman who struggles with severe arthritis. The work of Amy and her fellow volunteers to improve the local environment meant Maria could leave her house for the first time in five years. 

Felicity Morgan, Director of ICS at VSO, said: “These photos invite you into the world of ICS volunteers. Volunteering overseas isn’t just about travelling and experiencing new cultures, it’s about making a real difference to the community you’re in. By working on properly planned, long-term projects and living with local families, our volunteers are able to immerse themselves in a new way of living, as well as making a difference.”  

Alys Penfold's entry
Alys Penfold's entry, which won in the 'Voice' category.

Although the photos were different in their style and the subjects they captured, they represent parts of the ICS journey, showing how volunteering impacts people’s lives for the better, taking us to the story and allowing us access through a volunteer’s eyes.

Patricia Van Winden's entry
Patricia Van Winden's entry that won in the 'Environment' category.

All winners and shortlisted entrants will be on display at POP Brixton in London from November 20th – December 22nd.

City Academy offers a variety of courses for adults using film, acting, photography, and writing to share their stories. As an official sponsor, the winning entry receives £500 worth of vouchers from City Academy. Two winners will also receive mentorship from photographers, helping develop their skills and their talent for photography.

Looking to develop your skills in photography, film or writing? City Academy courses are a fun way to explore your skills and use them to share your story.

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Funded by the UK Government

ICS is funded by the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) which leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty.

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