Priscilla Pasty, Participant to Kenya
I am happy for making the right decision to volunteer through ICYE. I had always desired to volunteer in the African continent but due to various obstacles, I could not. And so to say I did not have the platform for such program until ICDE came to the rescue. When I decided to volunteer in Kenya, not everyone was pleased. All was disappointed because it was an African Nation. Still that negative deterrent did not stop me from what I wanted to do. And to add to their criticism, Ebola came in to the news. It also showed how bad we were in geography. They said I was making a suicidal journey going to this African Nation. I am glad I did. I met many volunteers from different country. They were young as 18! We shared our cultural views, talked about issues of our own countries. It helped me understand society from different angles. I feel like I know more about their countries though I have not been there physically.
Initially I was worried whether I will be able to blend in with the new culture, new working environment, and new people and yes, it goes on. From the day, I resided in Kenya and to be more specific, Umoja Innercore I never for once felt left out. When I started volunteering in Women Fighting AIDS, Kenya (WOFAK) the staffs were all co-operative and helpful. From sharing a cup of chai with the staffs and sharing jokes, a touch of professionalism and humane relationship has been retouch.
Kenya has helped me grow both professionally and personally. I came to understand myself. I started to discover my flaws and weakness. I developed a responsibility to serve humanity. Being a part of such cultural volunteer contributes to being a part of being a global citizen. Thank you ICDE, India and ICYE, Kenya.
Marcelle Britto, Indian participant to Switzerland
After Finishing my Masters program and decided to spend a year in Europe doing voluntary service. We had heard of the ICYE organization from a friend of my mother’s and so, paid a visit to the very pleasant and well-informed director of ICYE.
Half an hour later, after a dialogue about what my current qualifications were, where I would like to go, and what kind of work I was interested in, the director showed me a detailed brochure which contained information about the many voluntary work programs in Switzerland and the lifestyle and culture of this European country.
I chose a program whose description sounded really interesting and which seemed to fit in with my recently earned Master’s degree and asked the director to confirm if there was room for a volunteer to work in that program for a year. I also inquired how much my exchange year in Switzerland would cost and was very pleased with the reasonable amount which would cover my travel there and back, transport, food and stay there) which the director quoted. I also learned from him, that I would receive a monthly income of 200 francs which I could use as pocket money.
The next day, I received a call from the Director telling me that the program that I had chosen had agreed to accept me as a volunteer. Everything from there on was smooth sailing. ICYE did everything for me. They arranged a host family for me, arranged for my work permit, arranged for me to have a bus and train pass which would take me from the village where I was to stay to Zurich where I was to work, and gave me information on how to get a residence permit when I arrived in Switzerland. They also booked my flight ticket, got my medical insurance (which was very cheap), advised me on what visa documents were required, got me my invitation letter from the Brockenhaus and finally, got me my visa. For a dreadfully lazy person like me, it was a blessing to have an organization so capable and efficient and I didn’t have to do any running after or follow ups.
My work week was a short one (four days only), in keeping with the laws governing voluntary service and exchange programs in Switzerland and gave me a lot of exposure as well as plenty of free time to relax, meet friends, and have fun in. I also had the last month of my exchange year to travel in, as per the rules governing the 12 month exchange programs
Culturally, this experience ranks as one of my best experiences ever. My year in Switzerland exposed me to some of the best of art, music, and architecture which Europe has to offer. It also enabled me to become fairly good in German and to have a basic knowledge of French and Italian (the other two languages spoken in Switzerland).
Safety-wise, Switzerland is one of the safest countries in the world. There is an excellent network of trams, trains, and buses in which one can comfortably and safely criss-cross the country. Travelling alone at night is also extremely safe due to the very well-lit roads, the security cameras in all modes of transport and in all public places and the excellent and strong laws which mete out justice to offenders. For me, a woman who often travelled alone in Switzerland, this feeling of safety was a real blessing.
Professionally, this year has also been extremely beneficial, for it has given me a clear understanding of many different work cultures as I had the opportunity to work with people from different parts of Europe, exposed me to people from all over the world and taught me how to strike the balance required to get on with people from different cultures, different walks of life and who have ideas which differ from my own. I also picked up a number of foreign languages, another asset in today’s fast-moving global environment.
Today, I work for one of America’s biggest Multi-National Companies and have been in roles where I have worked with people from different parts of Asia, Europe and America. My understanding of different working styles, my ability to communicate in a language other than my mother tongue (English), my ability to work with and get along with people from all over the world has helped me considerably here.
Finally, my exchange year in Europe has taught me one of the greatest lessons needed to succeed in a global workplace and in life – to get along with people whose views, ideas and outlook are different than my own and to respect all, simply because we are all born human.