ICS Pre-Placement Training Weekend

This weekend I disappeared off to Wellingborough for my ICS pre-placement training. It was the first time that I got to meet the other Sierra Leone team volunteers and team leaders. To sum it up in one word, it was intense. I didn’t arrive until late on the Friday afternoon (I had an exam in the afternoon, which thankfully went well!) so I missed a little bit but we had full days (9.15am til ~9pm) Saturday and Sunday and then 9.15am-4pm on the Monday before we went home.

It covered so much information that my brain kinda went into overload. We did activities on our preconceptions, our fears over culture and security, a whole day on keeping safe and also got a little more information about what we will actually be doing when we go out. We had a talk from a previous volunteer (unfortunately she went to Senegal rather than Sierra Leone as the volunteer meant to talk to our group couldn’t make it) but it was fascinating to hear about the experience from someone that has actually done it.

In between all of that learning, I also had to learn the names of at least 20 other people which wasn’t easy! But, even though we were only together for a short time, I feel like there are people on my team that I could easily become good friends with and I hope that I will end up in the same place as them when we go out (Team Sierra Leone is split between two separate locations so we don’t know who we will be with or where we will be based yet).

Of course, it was a very social weekend. I was amazed that, by some chance, one of the guys on Team Sierra Leone also comes from my home town which seems an amazing coincidence! People were on their best behaviour and everyone was kind and outgoing – me included, to a point on outgoing anyway – which naturally made me immeasurably tired, as all heavy socialising does. It’s been a good few days since I got home and I am still sleeping way more than normal as my body tries to sort itself out!

What else… The food was surprisingly nice. The bunk beds were very creaky (yes, we were sharing rooms and had bunk beds!!) and a tad small but we survived. The view from the lodge we stayed at was beautiful. I even managed to get on all of the right trains.

In other news, yesterday was the Kent Union Awards and my society, Stage Spiders, won an award! We were awarded dedication to volunteering for our hard work on our projects and fundraising across the year, which was a real honour. Our President was also awarded a lifetime membership to the union which she definitely deserved; she has worked so hard this year with the committee and everything else she has done that I can’t think of anyone more deserving.

I think that is about it. I’ve got two exams left, the next is on Saturday (Saturday!?) at 9.30am so wish me luck and let’s keep our fingers crossed that this beautiful weather continues over the bank holiday!

Overdue Update

A slightly overdue update; thanks to a really generous donation from the Canterbury Rotary Club’s Millennium Scholarship Fund I have reached my ICS fundraising target! In the last few weeks I have also started all my vaccinations (my poor arms… they’re all bruised and feeling a little like pin cushions now) and later on today I am making my way to Wellingborough – don’t worry, I had to Google it too…. – for my pre-placement training weekend. I will finally get to meet the people I will be travelling to Sierra Leone with alongside volunteers going to Senegal!

Honestly, I’m a little nervous. Travelling on my own to somewhere I have never been; meeting loads of new people in such a short space of time. It’s going to be a little hard for me but I’m sure it will  be worth it from what I’ve heard from other volunteers. I’ll let you know how it all went when I get back!

In other news, I am now fully into my exams. This afternoon I reach my half way point which is both a relief and a scare. So far I would say they have been going okay, I just hope that I’ve put enough work in across the year and intensely over the last few weeks to get the grades that I want. I’ll just cross my fingers and pray for the best; it normally works okay.

Aside from the big stresses, life is still very busy! It’s awards season around the university and one of my societies has been nominated for loads of things! Our president and fundraising officer are off to Nottingham today for a national award ceremony that we were nominated for; on Wednesday is the Kent Union awards where we’ve been nominated for another 3 awards and the university RAG awards are coming up too – again we’ve been nominated! Obviously I am very proud of all the work that we have put in as a committee this year to run the society, fundraisers and projects but it is just so busy!!

Then to top it off I’ve got people with birthday bashes going on, the Dicken’s festival is coming up and the university concert band have our summer concert soon too… If I make it to the end of term I’ll certainly deserve the few days break before jetting off to do (hopefully) amazing work in Sierra Leone. I think I’ll just stick to surviving each day as it comes….

Below the Line

In a few weeks’ time, I am putting myself through a personal week of Hell in aid of my fundraising for ICS and Y Care International. I’ve been thinking about it recently and I have decided to really go for it (as if I wasn’t already by giving up the things I love most). Instead of giving up my control over food, I am instead going to keep control but limit myself to the £5 challenge. What this means is that for 5 days during my week I will be living on just £5 – which is below the poverty line.

In Sierra Leone, estimates vary since data is hard to come by but between 50 and 80% of people are living in extreme poverty. Here in the UK, as many as 1 in 5 people could also be living on less than £1 a day. Globally, 1.4 billion people are estimated to be living in poverty. In 2017, this just sounds totally wrong.

I can’t imagine what it is like living on such a knife edge; I’ve always been lucky. My parents were able to feed us, clothe us and take us on exciting holidays and trips around the world. At university on my own, I am lucky enough to have a large student loan/grant and a bursary which allow me to be totally independent and in control of my finances. That stability makes it nearly impossible for me to imagine the hardships that other people around the world have to endure.

That is partially why I want to do this £5 challenge. I want to experience the struggle, but that in itself feels selfish. My £5 is paying only for my food. I don’t have to worry about the rent, or the bills or any of the other additional things that people truly below the poverty line have to find money to afford. My challenge will be no comparison, but I don’t think that is the point. What I am trying to do, along with so many other people, is just raise awareness.

Y Care International works with young people in poverty, helping them to work their way out of these conditions. Young people get a lot of schtick in the press but we are the future and we do have the power to change our lives and the lives of those around us in our communities and across the world. I despair at the state of the world quite a lot, but I am truly optimistic that things can and will change for the better.

I hope that by giving up the luxuries that I see as my necessities, things that I struggle to live without in my privileged life, you might just donate to my fundraising and help to make a difference to the lives of so many others. When there are somehow managing to live on a pound a day, the few pounds that you could donate will make a huge difference to the projects being funded by the ICS partners.

I will be posting daily updates during my challenge so you can read all about it. Thank you. Please donate whatever you can on my fundraising page: www.justgiving.com/nicola-sadler2

A Few Of My Favourite Things…

Firstly, I want to say a big thank you to all my friends and family that donated to my raffle. It raised over £100 which is a huge chunk of my ICS target! There is no rest for the wicked though as I am already planning my next event and it is the kind of thing that everyone likes: watching someone else in misery. You sadists. 

There are a few things I rely on to get me through my days. Without them, I would undoubtedly go insane. So what things make my life easier?

  • Music: I listen to music every day. I like to have it in the background when I’m studying or procrastinating. I listen to it in the morning to kick start my day and then in the evenings to relax after a long day. I rarely go out without my iPod and I don’t think I can actually remember a day in recent years where I’ve not either had my iPod, iTunes or YouTube going at some point.
  • TV and Films: If I’m not listening to music, I probably have the tv on. It’s the same thing, I like background noise and it keeps me calm. I watch my shows pretty obsessively (some more than others) and go to the cinema pretty much every week. 
  • Chocolate: I’m sure you can identify. When you’ve had a bad days all you want is something chocolatey to make it better. My flat mate gave up all chocolate and sweets and pudding for lent this year (it’s been hard on her, especially when she made me a chocolate cake for my birthday and couldn’t have any herself) so I’ve seen how hard going without can be.
  • Food: More generally, knowing what I am going to eat every day is calming to me. I set my weeks out in weekly menus, know exactly what I’m having, when I need to cook it… it’s all a part of my timetable and I find the stability relaxing. 

You can probably guess where this is going. In aid of ICS and Y Care International, I am going to put myself through a personal week of hell where I give up all of these things. The exact week hasn’t been decided but it will probably be the 7-14 May. No music, no tv, no chocolate. Obviously I am not giving up food but my flat mate is going to take over cooking dinner for a week so I have no say in my meals, when we eat or what we have. 

My prediction is that the first day will be okay. I’ll be motivated and good to do it for a great cause. By day two or three, that enthusiasm will have undoubtedly failed. By day four or five, I’ll be so on edge that no one will want to be within a ten mile radius of me for fear that I’ll break. Then when the week is over, I’ll either be dead or victorious and will celebrate with a walk to the cinema, plugged into my iPod, eating chocolate fingers and going home to a meal of my choice. We’ll just have to wait and see but don’t worry; I’ll be documenting it all so you can watch my descent into madness. 

The hope is that you lovely people will see me suffering and donate to my fundraising to make my pain worthwhile. If you don’t, at least I can say I survived a (horrible) week without my favourite things. 

Fundraising Chronicles Vol I

Fundraising is a scary word. At least I think it is, especially when you have such a large target looming over you. I realised yesterday evening that – somewhat scarily – I have spent at least part of every hour of every day for the past few weeks thinking about it.  I mean, that’s great that I’m taking it so seriously but it is starting to mess with my head a little!

As part of ICS, I have to reach a target of £800 to prove that I am dedicated to the project. Along the way, the challenge of raising that much money helps me to learn more about myself, where my skills lie and where they clearly don’t and also spread the word of what is a truly great programme.

At the moment, I am running a raffle. Getting prizes for it was surprisingly easy. People have been so generous and have donated some great prizes after just a short email or message. It really is great. I’ve had people donate alcohol, food vouchers, cinema tickets, paintball vouchers, entrance into clubs… The list is actually pretty long! I’m just trying to get tickets sold at the moment which does mean shamelessly self promo-ing.

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That is probably what I am finding the hardest. Approaching people and asking for donations to the raffle itself was easy. Actually approaching my friends and acquaintances is surprisingly harder. You may have gathered that I am not the most social person and going out of my way to ask for something really is out of my comfort zone. After all, though, that is the whole point of doing this.

What else… You may remember the pictures of us painting bags? We are over half way done now and have a huge range of designs! We’ve done free hand painting, stencils, potato printing… Literally everything. We’ve also managed to make quite a good mess whilst doing it, so nothing new there (at least on my part!). Here are just a few of my favourites so far:

Basically, its busy around here even though term is coming to a close. I’ve still got assessments due but I am counting down the days until we break up because it means I am almost going on holiday! Over Easter I will be relaxing in Marrakesh, trying not to burn and not thinking about anything. No exams. No fundraising. No stress. Then I can come back and dive straight back into everything.  Good luck me!

Anyway, if you want to follow my ICS journey, donate or buy one of my bags, check out my pages.

http://www.facebook.com/NicolaSadlerICS

http://www.justgiving.com/nicola-sadler2

Busy Times Ahead!

It has been a busy week to say the least! I have sent countless emails and messages out to companies asking for donations for my upcoming raffle – people have been overwhelmingly generous in the name of such a great cause. I have been painting my canvas bags which will soon go up for sale to raise funds for ICS and Y Care International. I’ve had labs, assignments, my exam timetable was released, the university concert band had our concert and… do you know, I can’t even remember any more. It has been a long – and yet undeniably quick – week.

I’ve been lucky enough to have the support of my housemates when it has come to painting my canvas bags. You can see some of them modelling our designs in the photo below (not enough hands, so feet were required!). You can also see the mess that I have left, far worse than usual, but I’m sure I’ll eventually get around to tidying up.

In addition to all the actually relatively productive things I have been doing, I’ve also become slightly obsessed with Pretty Little Liars. I should probably have waited until the end of term to start watching it because it is addictive… Netflix is a terrible/wonderful thing.

Really not a lot else to say, I don’t think!  If you haven’t already, please like and share my pages – I’d really appreciate it!

https://www.facebook.com/NicolaSadlerICS

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/nicola-sadler2

And My Destination Is….

Yesterday I got a very exciting email telling me where I have been provisionally placed for the ICS programme…. With my partner charity, in June, I will be going to…. Sierra Leone! Flag_of_Sierra_Leone.svg

To be honest, before looking it up on Google yesterday I would have been hard pressed to tell you that it was in Africa… But after a quick googling, I found out that whilst the official language is actually English, there are loads of languages spoken there. As a country, it is regarded as one of the most religiously tolerant across the planet, which is amazing. It is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world but is still one of the poorest. The average life expectancy is less than 60 for both men and women. 70% of the population lives in poverty.

Over the course of my journey with ICS, I expect to learn an awful lot about this wildly different country and culture – one of the reasons I joined the programme in the first place. In my opinion, we as people can’t learn to work together and won’t be able to make progress in society if we can’t be tolerant and open to other peoples’ ideas. And really, I find it fascinating to see how others live their lives. I know I am lucky here in the UK. It can be easy to forget. I hope that this amazing experience will open my eyes to the kind of thing that we tend to ignore and push me even further along the path to becoming an international citizen of the world.