To celebrate International Volunteer Day, the UK San Benito volunteers, reflected on their progress, not just with the work they have done, but by the difference the experience has made for them and for those around them. Here are some of their thoughts: 


I wanted to volunteer within my gap year and ICS stuck out to me due to the strong focus on what the community wants and to experience a new culture as part of a close-knit team. On an individual scale, I believe I have made the children more exited to come to and engage with the school. I have gained increased confidence and communication skills both in English and Spanish, a better ability to work in a team and make new friends, both nationally and internationally. I have made a difference in the lives of the national volunteers by sharing a new culture, by helping them gain new skills and by them having to consider the different points of view that we have from them. Within the community, I think we have made a big difference in how they perceive the school. It is now a hub for the community where they can learn new skills, such as English and Zumba. 


I wanted to volunteer after studying international development at university. I hope I have made a difference to the children who I have taught in the English Club by improving their confidence and to engage more with school. They have progressed so well and are so keen to learn. The improvements we as a group have made to the school have already had a clear impact in making it a central part of the community. I have gained so much from volunteering here. It has been an exclusive insight into a new culture and way of life. It has provided me with a better understanding of the types of issues communities face here and greater appreciation for the way in which development NGO’s/charities work. It has also been lovely for me to live with a host family, which has helped me to improve my Spanish. 


I graduated from university but I wasn’t sure what to do next. Volunteering sounded like a good idea for the next step as it would give me new skills and improve the ones I already had. Also, it would improve my confidence and I would meet new friends and feel valued. We have done some infrastructure work so the school would look a lot nicer. We have also helped children to develop and improve their skills in Art, English, Science, Glee and Football. The garden we made will leave a long-lasting impact. I have improved my Spanish, my self-confidence and have developed many skills like teaching and working in a team. Volunteering in a different country and living with a host family has taught me how to adapt in a new culture. However, the most important thing that I have gained is an unforgettable and irreplaceable experience. 


I have gained new siblings, a new understanding of what’s important in life and what education can really achieve in our world. I also gained a clear path in the direction I want to take. I hope the children have gained a new happiness, similar to their school. The community, I hope, has gained a better future for their children and more of a sense of sustainability for their children. I wanted to volunteer to make a difference and experience a new culture, which I could hopefully learn from. I think I have made a difference to the children and showed them that the world does care about them. I also feel or I hope I have made a difference in showing how much they can reach for. I also hope at least one child I have taught will realise they have the ability for higher education. 


I wanted to volunteer because quite frankly I was stuck in a rut of staying at home and unemployed with everyone telling me to figure out what I want to do with my life. I had absolutely no clue and then I saw an advert for ICS and that made up my mind, three months away from home, to attempt to figure out my life and to try and make a difference somewhere completely different from home. As part of a team, I feel we have made the school a more inviting place and make it look like a place where children will actually want to go and learn, rather than a prison. In a country where less than 40% of children go onto secondary school, I sincerely hope that this experience will help to encourage even one or two children to graduate from primary school and continue onto secondary education. I feel as though I have gained so much more through this experience than I could possibly give back to any of the children and community. For me, this has been one of the most eye opening experiences that I have ever had and it has given me a new appreciation for the opportunities I have at home. Also, it has helped me to regain my confidence. I don't really know what exactly the community and everyone has gained, as time will tell if we have made a real impact but I hope that they have gained a better school, which will encourage more children to want to learn.


I wanted to become a volunteer in order to gain a better understanding of international development and its efficiency. I also wanted to get to know a different culture from mine. The biggest difference I feel I made is providing the community with an improved school in which the children will be able to have access to better and more resources. I feel we provided the children with a better and more pleasant environment for education and also with the promise of more opportunities if they choose the path of education. I gained a different and improved perspective on the world: that is that the chase for materialistic gains is not important. I also feel I have improved my problem-solving skills due to my constant interaction with crisis situations, in which I was challenged to find creative solutions.


I chose to volunteer with Progressio ICS as I was keen to gain a better insight into international aid and development and understand more about how it works. Perhaps most importantly, I wanted to set myself a new challenge and strive to make a positive change, not only on a personal level but equally on a local level within the community I’ve been working in. I feel I have bought a positive vibe to San Benito. I designed and helped paint a new mural, which I feel is a fitting tribute to the history of Honduras. As a team, I feel we have made the school a much more enjoyable place to learn and be. I have developed a better understanding of international development and how NGO’s work in developing countries. Personally, I have enhanced many skills from drawing and painting to language and planning and running a club. We have managed to engage the community in various events, such as community coffee, Zumba and a Sports Day. This has given people in the community a good opportunity to interact with each other in a way they might not usually. I hope that there will be some sort of legacy and that the community will start to organise events of their own.  


Last year, I volunteered with Progressio ICS in El Salvador. The experience was incredible and I wanted to help facilitate the opportunity for other UK volunteers by becoming a Team Leader. My initial focus was on helping the team get accustomed to rural Honduran life but by being able to run Glee Club, I have been able to see the impact extracurricular clubs have for children at first hand. A highlight of this was being able to participate in a National Competition in Tegucigalpa and see the children flourish on a massive stage. I’ve been fortunate to have an incredible team, and through their responsible attitude, we’ve managed to go far beyond the initial targets we had set ourselves, constantly pushing for more. We’ve been able to focus on wider community engagement through weekly Zumba classes, English classes and other community events, which are really making the school the heart of the community. This is a leadership experience like no other and I’ve gained confidence in my ability to manage a team and to try and push individuals to develop their skills by providing opportunities for their growth. By working with the community and the team, I hope we have left our mark on San Benito and the impact of the work we have done will be sustainable. 

Happy International Volunteer Day!

Written by ICS Team San Benito (UK volunteers)