Thursday, August 14, 2014

"You can": The Power of Youth-led Voluntourism

September 30, 2013 is a date that I will never forget. It was when my participation in the International Citizen Service (ICS) program began.
ICS is a United Kingdom-funded development program that brings together 18 to 25-year-old young people from all backgrounds to fight poverty overseas and in UK communities.
Although I was happy to be selected, I admit that I initially had a few doubts and worries.
But I asked myself, “Isn’t this risk worth taking if it is for the benefit of the nation and for the empowerment of my being?”
So I bravely took the first step, and I never looked back.
Unity in diversity
UNITY. Filipino and British VSO-ICS VI082 staff and youth volunteers posed for a photo in the midst of their volunteer work in Bohol, Visayas. Photo courtesy of the VSO-ICS Youth Programme

Up for the challenge
I was made aware from the very start that volunteering with ICS is not a vacation.
In light of our aim to increase the awareness of the local youth on environmental issues and sustainable management, we were given opportunities to hold training and planning sessions among the local youth leaders on civic participation, fundraising, leadership, and communication.
We also developed resource materials and teaching aids to empower these promising and bright Boholanos to become positive agents who will lead environmental discussions and projects in their respective communities.
Essentially, we just believed in them.
PROMISING. During the volunteer program, staff and youth volunteers worked with some of Bohol’s promising youth leaders. Photo courtesy of the VSO-ICS Youth Programme

Shaken, but not defeated
On October 15, 2013, just as when our youth engagement activities in our respective communities were already gaining momentum, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake struck the province of Bohol.
We organized a Community Action Day that allowed us to gather relief items from generous families who did not seem to have much but still decided to give. 
We made it clear to them that we are one with them in believing that their lives can soar again.
We hoped with them.
COLLECTIVE. Youth volunteers show their Bayanihan spirit as they take part in the distribution of relief goods to the Bohol earthquake survivors. Photo courtesy of Zahra Kazmi/VSO-ICS Youth Programme

This is our story:
'You can'
It has already been more than 3 months since I finished the ICS program and parted ways with my co-volunteers, yet up to now I still find it hard to put into words the lifelong positive impact that the program has made in my life.
I believe that in my own little way, despite my weaknesses and shortcomings, I know that I can empower at least one youth out there.
You simply can.
You may say that you are poor, shy, insecure, and weak-willed. But essentially, you still can. In today’s age when we face a lot of development problems that seem to tower over us like Goliath, this world needs you. You do not really have to be the brightest, bravest, and the best. This nation needs you.
You and the extraordinary exploits you can do. Your unique being and the powerful ripple you can deliver. You, who can take risks, who refuse to back down, who can empower even at least one living soul. You, whose undeniable potential to shake and move things far outweighs all of your fears and weaknesses combined.
If you only take that first step. You are not a mere spectator. You matter. 

*entry to the World Tourism Day Blogger Competition 2014
*word count: 496 (excluding photo captions)

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