Joseph, aged 19 from Manchester, volunteered with ICS Entrepreneur in Nicaragua in summer 2014. Volunteering during his university summer break allowed him to refocus his career goals for the future and helped to increase his leadership skills.
“My ICS Entrepreneur (ICSE) placement was based in Nicaragua, where I worked as part of a team of Nicaraguan and UK volunteers to lead workshops for young entrepreneurs in the region. Working alongside our partner charity, INPRHU, we aimed to give the young entrepreneurs the opportunity to develop their business skills in a practical context.
We also held action days which are a great way of bringing the young entrepreneurs and the communities together, and gave the entrepreneurs the opportunity to lead various awareness-raising activities for their peers. I felt that this really helped to increase the leadership skills and experience of the entrepreneurs, whilst also helping our team to integrate within the community. The workshop sessions combined structured study with more creative business-related tasks, such as advertising fictional products – which ranged from flying bikes to magic beans! This helped to develop the entrepreneurs’ creativity and presentation skills.
All the entrepreneurs that we worked with had great ideas, which included setting up a pottery or carpentry business, but they lacked the knowledge of how to implement them. They were also lacking awareness of business potential and knowledge of how to run a business, which is something that ICSE is really effective in addressing.
The entrepreneur who I felt had the most potential in the group was a young woman called Claudia, who was aiming to set up a restaurant business outside the Somoto canyon to take advantage of increasing tourism in the area. She hoped to go into business with three other young entrepreneurs from the programme who were all incredibly motivated to succeed. Claudia in particular was highly astute, and had both a realistic view of how her business could progress and incredible attention to detail when completing her business plan. Our team was able to provide guidance and structure to her ideas, which will help her fulfil her outstanding potential.
The ICSE experience was a constant learning process, both in terms of gaining business skills and personal development. I gained useful, practical knowledge about the reality of creating a business from scratch, which turned out to be quite different from the theory! The experience was invaluable for learning leadership and teamwork skills, as our team had to collaborate, discuss and lead sessions to ensure the success of the project. Overall, my confidence has improved as a result, and the time to reflect during my placement has meant I have returned to the UK more motivated to succeed in my degree, and focused to pursue my career goals.
One issue I became aware of in Nicaragua during my ICSE placement was the lack of sexual health education within the communities that we worked with, which encouraged me to join a society at my university that aims to raise awareness of and increase education on a wide range of sexual health issues. As part of my Action at Home project, I am writing an article for the society about my experience of these issues in Nicaragua, which I hope will also be published in local papers to help to further raise awareness.
ICSE has shown me that young people are vital to promoting economic development, but they need more encouragement and guidance to help them to be creative and have the ability to address problems in an innovative way. It was a challenging but thoroughly worthwhile experience, which is unique in its ability to create a hugely positive impact on developing countries, specific communities and individual volunteers.”