We spoke to Aly-Khan Rajan, who completed ICS with Raleigh in February 2015, and returned as a Team Leader later that same year. Aly is passionate about the importance of diversity in youth participation, and feels ICS changed his life for the better.
After I graduated, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life – like a lot of graduates I think! I got a job in advertising, but I didn’t enjoy it. I already knew Rahim, who was working for ICS, and he convinced me to make the jump and go on placement.
Speaking to someone who came from a similar background really helped me see how ICS could be for me. Had I not had that encouragement I wouldn’t have applied.
I did my assessment and received a place and handed in my notice to leave my job in January. The next couple of months was a lot of fundraising through social media and plenty of odd jobs.
Before ICS, I was motivated by money. This is largely because I grew up in a council estate and saw my father work an insane amount with not enough pay-off. So initially, I was driven by financial gain, and that leaves little room for volunteering.
Now I work in the charity sector and the last two years of my life have been the best I have ever had - because there’s nothing more fulfilling then feeling you are at least trying to make a difference, no matter how small it is.
I make sure I express my opinions now, which I didn’t before. I understand the importance of being politically aware and active.
Diversity is critical
Diversity is important because it allows us to share different points of view and different ideas and explore what each of us has to offer.
Representation matters not just in terms of race but also socio-economic background, as each of our experiences are different and so we all have something unique to bring to the table.
If I could speak to someone who’s maybe thinking ICS isn’t for them, I’d say: It’s for everyone, honestly it is for everyone. It has something for everyone and everyone has something to gain from it.
The relationships you build are worth more than any experience, both with your fellow volunteers, and your host families. You feel you are doing something to make a difference and you gain so many skills. There’s no reason not to try!
I became more employable
The major skill I developed on ICS was confidence- there is no way I would have gotten up in front of a crowd to speak before [Aly recently addressed over 60 people at a World Youth Skills Day event in Newcastle]. I learnt my own worth.
Doing ICS helped me get my foot in the door [with employers], and then I was able to show them the skills I learnt through my experience.