York’s hidden service: Connecting nations, enhancing independence, maintaining equality

York – a quaint city surrounded by walls and haunted by ghosts. But York is also home of a more discrete source of adventure and challenge. International Service: a centre which channels the positive energy of committed and passionate individuals from the UK and beyond to areas of challenged equality and education. Operating as a branch of International Citizen Service, International Service focuses on the humanitarian side of development in less developed countries.

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The inclusive nature of International Service is obvious in terms of both volunteers and benifactors. Expenses to access this opportunity are covered, and opportunities offered are diverse. There are 4 countries at present, with 2 other countries previously engaged. Projects involve women; children; youth; and disabled, from a holistic viewpoint (engagement, education, resource enhancement etc).

The key factor that attracted me was the belief that the hands-on approach, and the link between projects such as the Greenhouse in Bolivia and the training in sustainable agricultural practices in Brazil with my goals of arming developing nations with the knowledge required to gain independence and sustained resource provision, in an environmentally-sound nature. Blogs, comments and videos from  previous volunteers, current members – and not forgetting the legacy lasting 60 years, encompassing a total of 25 projects 2012/2013 – is testimony to their commitment and inspiration for lasting change in these communities, and in you.ISBolivia

Predictable challenges are the culture shock and constant presence of other in the community. International Service equips volunteers for the first challenge through a comprehensive 2 day cultural training session. The second challenge is up to you.

Modern developed society makes is easy for us to escape the presence of others with a thirst for our own space and expectation of private living quarter. Personally I do appreciate ‘alone time’ to reflect at the end of the day, but do we have to reflect alone? It’s a habit that I have come accustomed to, seeking to escape from the watchful eyes of others, but why do we need this?

Volunteers will eat, sleep and work with their team, connecting with members of the community through their project but always coming back together. Bolivian projects will even situate volunteers with a native host, with limited English. The prospect is daunting as such a change, but it is even more daunting depending on a period of isolation for contentment in a world of such high connectivity.

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I was thrilled to be invited to York for an assessment day, designed to draw together a selection of the best candidates, identified through online applications. Team exercises and thought-provoking dilemmas increased personal insight, as mentioned above, even in this day-long interaction.

Without giving too much away (as applicant days occur every Tuesday and Thursday in the months up until placements), the day revealed some tasks with unexpected twists and highlighted different perspectives between well-rounded applicants of an open-minded nature. The vibe was familiar, with a close-knit group of individuals as a permanent team and a very welcoming community-feel throughout.

Now for you; visit their website: http://www.internationalservice.org.uk/index.html for more information. And for me; 5 days until I know if I can join them…

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