HOME       VOLUNTEER OVERSEAS       BLOGS
Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

ICS - The Life Changer

THE LAST MAN STANDING, THE STORY OF THE LONGEST SERVING ICV

I am the last man standing. Do you want to know why? Just be patient and read on.

Myself at RAINS
About a year ago, when the doors for graduates, who were to embark on a compulsory 12 month service to the nation, through their various tertiary institutions, were finally opened, I was privileged to be posted to a government agency in Tamale. I set off to settle down for reporting and eventually commencement of work. However upon arrival at this agency, I was told there was no vacancy for me. This got me so confused, sad and traumatized because, all my preparations were in vain and more so, a possible re-posting could get me sent to very remote parts of the region. This is not to say I hate the countryside, but the cost involved in my attempts to getting settled in Tamale was too much for me with no room for any refund.
This sparked my search for an institution that would gladly accept my eventual re-posting. Fortunately, I was accepted by RAINS and recruited as a volunteer on the International Citizen Service after meeting the volunteer recruitment standards.

Cohort 5 under Matthew!
 For this I am and will forever be grateful to the Executive Director of RAINS. All too soon my worries were over and I was to link up with colleagues for training and induction into the scheme, this went very well. I have always felt uneasy stepping into the midst of people for the first time, however through interactions, I then gain confidence. My first meeting of volunteers kick started the transformation of my social life. I was challenged by the then Project manager to do a dance from my native culture before introducing myself. This sounded very weird to me, as I am used to that of mention my name and saying something brief about myself. But with so many expectant eyes turned towards me, I could not afford to disappoint. The shyness, uneasiness and tension that I walked into the conference hall with escaped, and soon I was dancing to the lovely tune composed by the programme manager.

Cohort 6 under Team Leader Miranda!
That was how my working life commenced. In fact that is a day I will never forget.
During my relatively long period of stay on this scheme, I have not only changed some aspects of my life, I have also adopted new traits. The ICS scheme is indeed a ‘life changer’, during my stay I have seen a total of fifteen (15) volunteers from the UK and 5 National volunteers come and go. I am a witness to how the scheme has aided in changing the social, economic, religious and cultural statuses of volunteers.

The scheme did not only serve as a window of opportunity for me to find a place in Tamale to serve my nation, it completely aided me to forget my initial worries by compensating for them by offering me better working conditions and allowances than the public sector institutions offer volunteers or service personnel. This went a long way to pushing my progress towards self- reliance as well and maturity as I was able to remit to other siblings as well.

Socially, the exposure to different people of different cultures played a very big role in transforming me. I came into the system a very indoor person, but the demands of the job pushed me out of the shells of seclusion. I also added to my catalogue of friends, people who did not only maintain a working relationship but also stood by me at other occasions and events outside the office.

Cohort 4 under Matthew! 
I have always told close friends that, my pre-ICS life was a mess and a miss of opportunities such as those I enjoy so much today, never knew working in a team was just a lovely thing to do, an opportunity to work with people of varying lifestyle and learn to tolerate them. Hanging out with friends is something I now do all weekends, but prior to my involvement on the scheme I use to consider that a waste of time. I have learnt how to communicate well if not effectively, I have learnt and practiced some etiquettes at table, especially the use of cutlery, I have come to appreciate and accept the culture of others so much. Exposure to Ghanaian culture has seen people traded cultures as well, one that will forever remain in my mind is how a staunch vegetarian following the abundance of meat in Ghana, went on to practicing “cannibalism”!

It should be frank to state also, that my life on the ICS scheme has not been all fun, there are instances of fall-out with colleagues and superiors, but the fortunate thing is that, I never allow this to affect my commitment to duty as much as practicable. I have this opinion and I believe you share that equally share in that, I believe that conflicts are not necessarily bad, although it is one of the most divisive weapons of unity and group living.  Conflicts are natural in the arena of our daily lives and also foster an awareness that problems exists, it also creates an avenue for agreement to be reached on the ways forward.
Finally, Cohort 7 under Miranda!
Conflict with their accompanying effects could either be positive or negative based on the how effective they are managed. Yes, we did not have to agree on all things, but neither did we have to disagree on all things.
The relevance of working a team and the by weekly supervision session which is a key component of the scheme ensured that conflicting views were discussed and readily resolved. It is good to speak out to avoid minor conflicts from generating into huge and more destructive ones.

Team Leader Matthew Bell.
I have fond memories of my first working experience, my first working team, and my lovely Team leader, Matthew Bell. Hello Matt, I appreciate the training, teaching and “straightening” you provided me with.  Upon your departure, you left for me a Mum in Miranda. Hello Mum, I know things were not smooth sailing, but hey, thanks for the patience and pep talks. Your efforts will go a long way to mold me for future engagements. And to rest of the teams I say, Thanks for your friendship. Looking forward to meeting you all someday, somehow and somewhere.

I love you all, 
Justice Atiim.