Skip to main content

Take a look back at our 10 favourite moments of 2019

Last year was big for us. We celebrated the eighth year of ICS, getting more volunteers on placement and making more progress than ever before. Here were our highlights.

1. We discovered the hidden financial value of volunteering

It’s hard to put a financial value on volunteering. So we commissioned some research to find out. What we discovered was incredible. For every £1 we spend, ICS creates £4.64 in ‘social value’ – that’s the changes volunteers experience in things like increased confidence and active citizenship. And this return is even higher for women and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.

Two female ICS volunteers pose for a selfie
ICS volunteers Shanti (L) and Swosthi (R) pose for a photo
ICS volunteer Jim poses next to governor Kivutha
ICS volunteer Jim Kyalo met Kenyan governor Kivutha Kibwana

2. ICS voices were heard on the world’s biggest stages

In November, three volunteers from Nepal headed to Thailand to the International Association of Volunteering Effort conference in Bangkok. While there, they met the Thai Minister of Social Development and Human Security and even presented on their ICS experience.

And just weeks before, three volunteers from east Africa went to Rwanda for the International Volunteer Co-operation Organisations’ Conference. They networked, learnt about how to make their projects inclusive and spoke about how ICS will change their futures.

“One thing I learnt is that volunteering has been part of the social fabric of Africa for centuries. Building relationships is important, but it’s the hidden connections and geometries that inform impact. We’ll only be able to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 with volunteering and partnerships,” said Alice Norbeth, Raleigh ICS volunteer.

A group of volunteers pose inside an Instagram frame
We organised International Youth Day events all over the world

3. We celebrated International Youth Day with a series of global events

Last year’s International Youth Day theme was about using your ICS experience to get into work. Our incredible network of young active citizens put on events in Bangladesh, Kenya, the UK, Tanzania and Zambia, with CV workshops, job fairs and business skills training. Here’s our UK alumni’s top tips for public speaking and networking:

Watch these top tips on how to improve your public speaking and networking

4. Our inspiring ICS alumni started social action projects of their own

Like Lilian’s project in Kenya’s Siaya County, where she’s helped 114 smallholders become more resilient in the face of climate change. She helped them share farming techniques and even set up a demonstration plot for the community to practice their new skills.

Lillian’s project, alongside 13 others, was funded through the ICS In-Country Volunteer Grant – a fund which provides grants of up to £1000 for social action projects. If you’ve got your own ideas for a project, applications for the next round of funding will open in early March. Apply here.

A female volunteer poses for a photo against a balcony
Volunteer Elena grew up in Nigeria and saw first-hand the harm of voluntourism

5. Volunteers spoke up about responsible volunteering

Volunteering overseas is a powerful way to tackle poverty and inequality. But if volunteers don't make the right choices, they can find themselves doing more harm than good. We partnered with anti-orphanage volunteering charity Lumos to talk about the need for ‘responsible volunteering’ – then spoke with a Nigerian ICS volunteer who, growing up, saw first-hand the harm caused.

Three volunteers hold a placard in the middle of a shopping street
© Jack Howson
Volunteers in Southend were trained up on how to talk about UK Aid before going out onto the streets

6. We trained 75 young people as UK Aid advocates

Support for UK Aid is dwindling with the British public. But our best weapon is our ability to talk about its impact – both on the communities we worked with and on the volunteers.  We ran workshops all over the country giving our volunteers the skills to have those vital conversations about why UK Aid – the British government’s commitment to supporting the world’s poorest – is so important right now.

© VSO / Paul Wambugu
In Kenya's Nandi county, an estimated 30,000 young people live with hearing loss - many are excluded from education

7. An all-Deaf team of volunteers came together to tackle stigma

Last summer, a team of Deaf Kenyan and UK volunteers came together to set about tackling disability stigma. It’s estimated 30,000 young people live with hearing loss in Kenya’s Nandi county, many suffering from parental neglect and disconnected from local schools. The volunteers helped rebuild relationships within the community and reconnected the children with the educational services they’re entitled to, while also teaching them Kenyan Sign Language. See the photos.

Volunteer Kennedy sits at a laptop typing
Tanzanian ICS volunteer Kennedy was named one of Africa’s 100 Most Influential Young People

8. An ICS volunteer made Africa’s 100 Most Influential Young People

We were so excited to find out that 28-year-old Tanzanian tech entrepreneur Kenny Mmari was announced as one of Africa Youth Awards’ 100 Most Influential Young People. Not just because we were so inspired by the incredible work he’s doing creating jobs for other young people in tech. But also because he was an ICS alumni – and volunteering gave him the skills to get into business.

A UK volunteer poses for a photo with her extended Nigerian host family
© Leanne Keast
Leanne Keast (back left) poses for a photo with her Nigerian host family

9. We saw just how much your host families mean to you

For International Day of Families, we decided to ask you why living with a host family was such a big part of your ICS experience. Dozens of you sent over beautiful photos from placements all over the world. We picked just 13. As ICS volunteer Jessica Law movingly said, “Living with them really made me feel part of the community. I’ve gained a second family who I love dearly.”

Extinction Rebellion flags and banners waved in the air during a street protest
© Sandor Szmutko /
New roles are emerging at the intersection of international development and the environment

10. We profiled the hottest green careers on the market

Plenty of new jobs are springing up that cross the divide between international development and the environment. Jobs like advocacy and policy officers, where you’ll sit at the crossroads between activism and the government. Or roles in solar technology – which in continents like Africa will help provide a solution to the growing energy crisis.

Read more:

Dfid Logo

Funded by the UK Government.

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.

Find out more