When Jake Neal, 20, first came across the idea of volunteering abroad on a three month ICS placement with Raleigh, his first thoughts were “Oh, that sounds interesting, I should have a look.”
Within a few short weeks, Jake was living and working in the rural village of Ikchung in Nepal. He was working on a water and sanitation project, helping paint and reclaim public spaces and learning as much Nepalese as he could from his local counterpart, Krishna.
Being an 'older brother'
When he returned to England in December 2016, Jake was interested in learning more about people with backgrounds different to his own.
He applied to be a residential volunteer at a home for young refugees with an organisation called BACA. BACA helps support young people aged (16-18) who have been forced to migrate by providing them with safe shelter and assistance.
As a live-in volunteer Jake is an ‘older brother’ to four young men as they transition to living independently, helping them navigate a world full of forms, homework and legal applications in English.
“When I hear the guys’ stories and the things they have been through, it really makes me think.”
Being able to support them as they build new lives in the UK has been a rewarding experience. Jake says it’s reinforced his belief that people around the world are equal. Living in the house can feel like hanging out with his friends; teaching guitar, cooking with residents and helping build a safe-space in what can sometimes be an unfriendly environment around them.
Jake remains passionate about challenging negative assumptions, inspired by the kindness shown to him by his host family when he first arrived in Nepal. He says, “For me, I was most inspired by how warm and welcoming the community and my host family were, which made me feel a sense of belonging within their community.”
Wanting to do more
He uses skills at the BACA house that he developed while on his placement with ICS. Jake also volunteers at Sue Ryder, a local charity shop that raises money for people requiring long-term care and works shifts at a local restaurant. It’s a busy environment, but he seems to thrive in it.
“Now I would say I am really an open-minded person,” he says with a laugh.