When I visited Tanzania to see first-hand the work of Raleigh International’s International Citizen Service (ICS) programme, I asked several volunteers why they decided to sign up. Without having any preconceptions, I was genuinely surprised at how informed the volunteers were. While many are still undecided in their choice of career – like I was as a young man – they are clear in their determination to make the world a better place.
They are fed up with poverty and how we treat our planet. They can’t accept that so many people still don’t have access to safe water and sanitation in an age where we have such advanced technology. They understand and support the Global Goals, and I have found that many of these young people are better informed on global issues than my own generation.
Instead of seeing Raleigh as a way of filling time while they decide what they want to do in life, many young people view Raleigh as an opportunity to get work experience and increase their understanding of the world. Raleigh is the perfect organisation to help them achieve this, and it provides them with the opportunity to gain new skills. The organisation’s legacy places a strong emphasis on leadership and teamwork, and provides an environment where volunteers can practice and develop their skills without risk. Volunteers are given the opportunity to lead groups and each is given feedback by their fellow volunteers and their team leader.
The locations that Raleigh operates in are remote and challenging. I can’t think of many other situations where young people are given the opportunity to develop their leadership skills in such testing conditions. Since the volunteer groups bond so tightly the feedback they receive is genuine, which is often rare in our personal lives and even rarer in our professional lives. Such feedback allows people to develop new skills and behaviours so that they can achieve their full potential in life. Volunteers get the opportunity to put this feedback into action with support from their colleagues. It’s difficult to ‘fake’ yourself in these environments which is why the Raleigh experience is so valuable for building self-awareness, confidence and leadership skills.
These skills are much sought after by employers who invest millions of dollars in leadership and teamwork programmes. As a businessman myself and a volunteer alumnus, I have attended many such programmes over the years. My view is that no programme even remotely compares to the quality of leadership development that volunteers experience on Raleigh’s programmes. I believe there is no substitute for experiential learning and Raleigh provides this in abundance.
The Raleigh experience is a learning experience that can set young people up for life. Not only are volunteers delivering projects to improve lives in rural communities while contributing towards the Global Goals, they are also developing their skills and preparing themselves as the leaders of tomorrow’s more socially responsible world.
In my view, those who attend a Raleigh programme are not only making the world a better place to live, but they are setting themselves on a path of self-awareness and discovery which will ultimately maximise their potential and personal fulfilment.
This blog has been written by Jeremy Fish, a Raleigh International trustee and alumnus. If you are a Raleigh alumnus and would like you contribute to our blog, please email firstname.lastname@example.org