EPISODE 15: YOUTH VOICES IN THE SPIRIT OF INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTARY SERVICE (IVS) - DRIVING CHANGE AND INSPIRING HOPE
Coordinating Committee for International Voluntary Service (CCIVS)
Hani Nurlina is a strategic communicator and professional educator with experience in the education and development sectors. She has been involved in numerous local, national, and international initiatives with NGOs and is currently working as Youth Action Officer in CCIVS and coordinating the CCIVS Youth Committee.
YOUTH VOICES IN THE SPIRIT OF INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTARY SERVICE (IVS): DRIVING CHANGE AND INSPIRING HOPE
International Voluntary Service (IVS) programmes provide unique opportunities to volunteer locally and globally, fostering personal growth, skill development and global citizenship. The personal growth and skills development that individuals experience after being involved in IVS programmes include self-awareness of their abilities and weaknesses, higher self-confidence, skills to preserve cultural and natural heritage, conflict management and improved comfort in expressing their needs, feelings and communicating their distress while simultaneously embracing diversity (CCIVS Impact Report 2010-2020).
The Largest Unknown Network in the World
"IVS acts as a catalyst for change within individuals and society, shatters biases and stereotypes, and champions peace, sustainability and social inclusion through collective efforts aligned with public interest needs and goals"
IVS has been a dynamic movement since its first workcamp in Esne-en-Argonne, near Verdun in France following World War I. Volunteers united to reconstruct the town, guided by the visionary belief that collaborative volunteering could be a potent tool for advancing peace. Each year, tens of thousands of participants from over 90 countries and diverse cultural backgrounds work with local communities through short-term workcamps, mid and long term volunteering projects. IVS acts as a catalyst for change within individuals and society, shatters biases and stereotypes, and champions peace, sustainability and social inclusion through collective efforts aligned with public interest needs and goals. IVS allows individuals to participate as active members of society, working on tasks that benefit communities.
Following their projects, an overwhelming majority of participants demonstrated a firm belief in the significance of IVS. A remarkable 98.3% of them affirm that it can play a pivotal role in fostering peace and nurturing the development of inclusive societies (CCIVS Impact Report 2010-2020).
Workcamps typically run for 2-3 weeks. However, there are also very short-term programmes which only run for 3-7 days, and mid- and long-term programmes that can run for a year. Workcamps involve 10-20 volunteers from various countries. Ideally, no more than two volunteers should come from the same country to encourage interaction. These volunteers collaborate with communities, often in remote or disadvantaged areas, where they may have limited exposure to different cultures, possibly leading to conflict due to misunderstanding of traditions or customs and language barriers.
Local or national organisations in the host countries directly organise these projects, working from the grassroots with local communities, especially with young people. International partnerships enable these organisations to receive and send volunteers, following the principle of reciprocal exchange. Instead of viewing cooperation as a one-way process from economically developed nations to poorer communities, it is seen as a multidirectional exchange. Workcamp organisations focus on promoting sustainable development and education through active citizen participation, rather than having a purely humanitarian approach. IVS is based on mutual exchange and understanding – volunteers do not go to ‘help’ a community but to work together on a common project.
IVS represents a distinctive mode of human engagement that can establish robust links between local and global initiatives. It utilises non-formal education and experiential learning methods. By promoting active participation and bringing together diverse people from different cultures in intensive micro-communities, international group voluntary service empowers civil society as a capable force of innovating and forging new paths in social and economic relationships, knowledge, and active participation.
One of the values of IVS is to promote ’learning by doing’ and use volunteerism as a learning tool representing the foundation for lasting social connection, built upon a mutual comprehension of cultural distinctions and collective, collaborative objectives that go beyond individual interests, reshaping the notion of identity. International workcamps and mid- and long-term volunteer projects are unique and have broad impacts, but a lot of people are not familiar with them.
Youth Engagement: Nurturing the Leaders of Tomorrow
At its core, IVS recognises the invaluable teachings and wisdom imparted by our elders, drawing upon their vast pools of experience and knowledge. Simultaneously, it also provides a nurturing space for the younger generation to amplify their voices, fostering a spirit of empowerment and engagement. Young volunteers often bring a unique lens to global challenges, and their innovative ideas often lead to novel solutions to complex problems. Thus, IVS empowers youth to take on project leadership roles, providing them with opportunities to develop crucial skills like leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, and communication. By actively participating in decision-making processes, young people gain the confidence to advocate for positive change and make a lasting impact in their communities and beyond. Within this harmonious blend of generations, IVS creates a vibrant tapestry of perspectives, where the wisdom of the past intersects with the vigour of the future, working together to tackle the world’s problems.
"Young volunteers often bring a unique lens to global challenges, and their innovative ideas often lead to novel solutions to complex problems."
Challenges in Fostering Inclusivity
While IVS has made significant progress in promoting inclusivity, challenges remain. There needs to be more accessible information on IVS programmes among youth from backgrounds where volunteering is still a new concept or not considered important.
Another challenge is decolonisation in International Voluntary Service (IVS) programmes. Decolonisation refers to challenging and transforming power dynamics, promoting cultural diversity and equitable access for all. Many countries in Europe strongly support volunteering. However, volunteering organisations frequently struggle to receive attention for their crucial work outside Europe. Furthermore, while many volunteers from the Global North work on projects in the Global South, there are few chances for the Global South volunteers to participate in turn in projects abroad.
In conclusion, Youth Voices in the Spirit of International Voluntary Service embodies the hope and potential of an integrated society. IVS empowers young people to be the drivers of change, shaping a more compassionate, inclusive, and a just world. Their fresh perspectives, innovative ideas, and boundless energy ignite the spirit of IVS, inspiring hope for a brighter and better future. Nevertheless, IVS also acknowledges the importance of cross-generational connections. By facilitating this intergenerational work, IVS creates a rich environment where each generation learns from and inspires the other, resulting in a more holistic and impactful approach to volunteer work and community service. This collaborative spirit ensures that the movement remains dynamic and responsive to the evolving needs of society.
As we continue to celebrate the spirit of inclusivity in IVS, let us recognise the invaluable role of youth voices in reimagining our world and their power to turn dreams of positive transformation into reality.