To celebrate the start of a new year, we wanted to share some inspiring stories to get us excited for the year ahead and everything we will achieve. We hear from Mahomed and Shanti, two ICS alumni who share their stories of what their ICS placements and challenging themselves meant to them.
“I wouldn’t have done ICS if I didn’t climb Kilimanjaro”
Mahomed Khatri, 29, UK
When I was coming to the end of university, I felt like there were so many exciting things around me, but I never really took part. Initially becoming blind was very, very tough but after getting a guide dog aged 17, It hit home that I had more of a life to live. So, when someone told me about a chance to climb Kilimanjaro, I thought it was the perfect opportunity for a challenge.
Being at the top was the best feeling you could ever get. There’s a sense of accomplishment that you don’t get with many things. Afterwards I really wanted another challenge, so I signed up to ICS. The confidence you gain from it was outstanding for me. As someone with a disability, I was able to enter a new community and work with them on amazing projects.
Taking opportunities like ICS is so important because I had an opportunity to work for three months in quite a challenging environment, which I think really helped me get my first job because I had gained so many new skills and confidence.
Since then I’ve become an ambassador for (the charity) Guide Dogs For The Blind and have played in the Blind Cricket World Cup. After losing my sight, I thought sport was taken away from me but my teacher introduced me to blind cricket. I went for a trial and played for a few clubs then within a couple of years was playing for the England team. Like ICS, it was an opportunity to travel the world and meet so many new people from different countries and backgrounds. It’s such an amazing experience to be part of.
I have a guide dog myself so understand many of the difficulties that comes with having one. In the Asian community, dogs are less accepted so I’ve been working with others like myself and supporting them so people are aware there’s a support network.
My 15-year-old self would never believe all the things I've achieved. There’s no way my younger self would have believed that I was going to live and work in Zambia or play cricket for England. It’s such a buzz, I didn’t think I would have the confidence.
“My parents learnt from my ICS placement as much as I did”
Shanti Tamang, 23, Nepal
Although I was born and brought up in the capital city, my parents are from the rural Himalayan region so have kept their more traditional way of life. Keeping me safe and protecting me from everything seemed to be my parents’ goal – to the point I wasn’t allowed to spend a night out with friends.
When I was 23 and had completed law school, I saw the vacancy for ICS volunteers. I applied without a second thought and I was selected to lead 20 volunteers as a team leader.
In ICS there are three phases: pre-placement, placement and post-placement. But I had four phases – the first was persuading my parents to let me join the programme.
Despite being initially enthusiastic, as soon as I mentioned "three months in the community" and "living away from home", the atmosphere turned. Till the day I left for placement, my parents were not completely happy about it. However, the condition to let me go was to keep updating them of my journey. I made time to call my parents every day, enabling them to live and learn from my ICS journey as much as I did.
After my placement, my parents were very pleased witnessing how I have changed as a person. Volunteering made me more empathetic and patient and they now encourage young people in the family to engage themselves in volunteering of any kind.
I am lucky to be the first volunteer in my family and my entire village. One of my most admired quotes by Mahatma Gandhi is: “the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself is the service of others”, which is the constant source of my motivation in volunteering.