It was a radio advert that I heard whilst driving through the Lake District that first got me interested in ICS. I have always been keen to help others, my job as a support worker and my application to do nursing studies at university reflects this. My close friend had volunteered in Ghana for three weeks and hearing her stories would make me want to get abroad and volunteer even more! After hearing the advert I decided that I would apply to ICS. I sent my application on 18 February 2014, and figured that it would take a while for them to respond to me with it being such a huge opportunity offered to so many people. I couldn’t be more wrong…

A week after I had submitted my application, I received notice that my application had been successful and that I would have to wait a short while (five hours!) until they had placed me with one of the nine charities that ICS works with. My charity, Progressio, invited me to a selection day which was to be held in London on 20 March 2014.

My selection day was long and intense. There were about 16 of us who all had different reasons for why we had applied and different desires as to where we wanted to go. The day consisted of ice breakers, team building exercises, information on what ICS and Progressio does, information on the countries they work in and finally a 40 minute individual interview. We were then told that we would hear from them in the next few weeks as to whether we were successful or not.

It was less than 24 hours after my selection day that I was told I would be off to Zimbabwe on 2 July with Progressio. My application was successful! I couldn’t have been happier. And then, the dreaded ‘to do’ list came. DBS checks, passports, emergency contacts, and not to mention the £1,500 fundraising target I had to meet before I departed! However, as daunting as it sounds, the ICS and Progressio staff were there (and still are!) to answer any questions I had however big or small. My main focus now was to sort out all of my ‘to do’s’, attend my pre-departure training and start my fundraising.

At first, £1500 seemed impossible. How was I going to raise that amount of money in four months?! Simple! I set up a JustGiving page and within a week or so had raised £200 just from donations from family and friends who had found out about my fundraising via Facebook/Twitter etc. What I really needed was a flag post event – something that would hopefully raise most of the money I needed, or a good bulk of it. My dad and his friends are in a band and so with the help of my local parish centre, I organised a band night. We had a raffle. Whiskey curling, a quiz, football cards, an auction and a donation box on the door. It was a huge success; we raised over £800 for Progressio! I had been doing other things along the way too, including:

- Cake sales

- Gel nail painting

- Writing to local businesses for raffle prizes (you would be surprised at how generous people are!)

- Donations

My fundraising was completed just two months after being selected, it is possible! I have my family and friends to thank for this; I could not have done it without them.

The next mile stone was the pre-departure training which was held in York on 16 and 18 May. Here, I along with other Progressio ICS volunteers, were briefed and given the training we would need in order for our placement overseas to be as successful as possible.  I also got to meet my group who I will be working with, my team leader and I also found out the project that we will be supporting whilst over there. We will be the first wave of volunteers to work with a project called ‘Restoration of Hope’ which works alongside vulnerable children.

The next time I see my group now will be at the airport on the day we leave for Zimbabwe. How exciting! I am so grateful for the opportunity that Progressio and ICS have given me. I am aware that this will be hard and there will be times when I question ‘why am I doing this?!’ but the thing that is keeping me motivated is knowing that I will be out there helping those that are less fortunate than me, helping to make a difference in the world. I highly recommend ICS to anyone who is keen to do something like this. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity so grab it with both hands and apply!

And remember…”challenge yourself to change your world” – anything is possible.

By Beth Thompson, Progressio ICS volunteer departing for Zimbabwe in July 2014