When Jasmine Anderson and Siza Aryal first met in early 2020, they were excited to be working together on an ICS placement to support local communities through increasing access to education in the Lamjung region of Nepal.
Fast forward a few weeks and with a new disease, COVID-19, spreading across the world, borders were closing, group activities were stopped and Jasmine and Siza had to leave their adopted communities and return home.
While their ICS placement was cut short, both volunteers remained committed to volunteering. Their stories illustrate how many young people, undeterred by the pandemic, have continued to make an impact by volunteering remotely.
Jasmine’s remote volunteering experience in the UK
Though disappointed her team hadn’t been able to complete its ICS placement, 24-year-old Jasmine returned to Gloucester in the UK full of confidence in the collective power of youth volunteering.
“I was really disappointed that we couldn’t complete all of our project aims,” says Jasmine, “but I knew it was important to channel the confidence and skills I had gained into further action. My placement taught me about how much more can be achieved through effective collaboration, so it was really important to me to work on projects where I could do that with others.”
Restrictions due to COVID-19 meant that volunteering face to face was no longer an option for Jasmine. Instead, without ever leaving her home, she signed up to join the core committee helping to establish the UK's National Youth Engagement Network (NYEN), an ICS alumni-led group, whose mission is to take positive action in the local and global community.
As an advocate for inclusion and diversity, Jasmine leads the group in this area, bringing in practices such as blind recruitment to ensure a fair and non-biased approach. She also built her confidence and expanded her own learning through designing and facilitating a series of online events for other young people around the climate crisis, International Youth Day, UK Aid and mental health and wellbeing.
Alongside her contribution with NYEN, she has also volunteered remotely as a youth researcher for Restless Development. Through this initiative she has conducted virtual interviews, collated data and helped to produce a report discussing the impact of COVID-19 on young people in the UK.
It’s been a busy time for Jasmine following her placement. Throughout this period she made time to keep up her friendship with her Nepali ICS teammate Siza through regular messages and calls, even meeting up with Siza’s family online. Through this, she was able to keep up to date with Siza’s own remote volunteering experience, thousands of miles away.
Siza’s COVID-19 volunteering response in Nepal
Siza was motivated to volunteer with ICS by the inequality she saw growing up in Dhungeada, Nepal. The 23-year-old was determined to support fellow Nepalis in overcoming the barriers holding them back, from poor infrastructure to harmful community attitudes. So, while she was disappointed to have to leave her ICS placement early when COVID-19 hit, Siza decided to use her unexpected free time to continue supporting the most vulnerable in her home country.
Feed the Hungry Nepal is a youth initiative aiming to ease the hunger crisis faced by many in Nepal, as its national lockdown reduced opportunities for work and food stability. Siza joined a team of youth volunteers who distributed 3,438 ration kits in the areas surrounding Kathmandu in just over four months.
Like Jasmine, Siza shares a passion for inclusion and diversity, so she took an active role in working to ensure that food support prioritised the most vulnerable and marginalised in her society - such as those who are elderly, transgender, or living with a disability.
Alongside distributing rations, Siza has been busy fundraising through social media and organising an online debate around sustainable agriculture and employment. For Siza, taking actions during lockdown is about more than handing out food. She’s passionate about solving hunger at its root causes, by empowering farmers and vulnerable communities, while strengthening platforms for young people to contribute to eradicating food insecurity entirely.
Reflecting on her volunteering after ICS, Siza said, "We are just a group of young people who have come together to do what no one seemed to be doing: that is to help Nepal eat better so it can live better and do better."
What next for Jasmine and Siza?
Although their time together in Nepal was shorter than expected, Jasmine and Siza are grateful for their experience. Their short time on placement inspired them to continue volunteering, and their friendship has motivated them to keep going. By sending her lots of supportive messages, Siza says Jasmine encourages her work:
“We have always spoken about our plans and objectives. We have that common plan for sustainability. For me, she always motivates me to keep on going. She praises my work and helps me to improve as well.”
For Jasmine, her experience in Nepal, alongside her remote volunteering in the UK, has helped to confirm her desire to continue working in the development sector:
"Being part of these initiatives has really helped me develop skills to do this more effectively, as well as increase the confidence I have in my own ability to make an impact."
With a history in education, Jasmine will be further developing her skills and networks by undertaking a master's degree in International Development and Education next year.
As for Siza, she also plans to continue impacting the development field through campaigning and training to eradicate food poverty for Nepal’s most marginalised.
To find out how you can volunteer remotely and use your voice in collaboration with other young people, sign up to a National Youth Engagement Network where you are.