The Adventure Begins…

This evening/early tomorrow morning, I will be meeting up with the other ICS volunteers as we prepare to board our plane and head to Sierra Leone! It’s been both a long and a short journey getting here. It feels so long ago that I applied for a space on ICS. It’s only been 4 months since I went to my applicant day and yet that feels like a distant memory now. I guess with exams, uni, general life – and everything that has gone along with ICS like the training weekend, getting vaccinated, buying all my supplies etc. – that time has just slipped away.

I honestly don’t know how I feel right now; I’m scared and nervous, obviously. I’m going to a brand new country with people I don’t really know but I guess we are all in the same boat there. I’m also going to miss my family and friends, that is for sure. Hopefully, though, I’ll get on with my fellow volunteers and I am sure that my host family will welcome me with open arms. Well, I hope so.

It’s not all negative emotions, though. I don’t think. Of course, I’m excited to be going somewhere new. Half the point of this for me was to go and experience a way of life that is totally different from my own. I’m looking forward to learning about how others live their day to day lives and seeing whether I actually can cope with the slow pace that they seem to enjoy. For all my complaining, and my uni flatmates will certainly attest to the fact I do complain a lot, I do enjoy the busy life and it will be a challenge, I’m sure, for me not to be constantly connected. My mind is like a busy hive and, whilst I like and need to take breaks now and then, the slower road may not be for me. But we will see!

Anyway, I’m all packed up – my suitcases are sitting ready and I’m going over the lists again and again in my head to see if I’ve missed anything. Which I probably have. Fingers crossed it’s nothing important; then again, if I have forgotten about it then it probably isn’t worth worrying about.

I’ve spent the morning downloading music, tv programmes and films so I will have something to keep me sane (everyone that knows me knows that, as much as I love my books – and trust me there are plenty of those coming with me too – that sometimes it is best just to let me zone out and watch my tv!!). All in all, I think I’m ready. Probably.

You can probably sense the nervousness in this post. It’s kind of all hit me now that I am actually going to do this and part of my brain is realising that it is too late to back out now! I doubt that I’ll be able to post anything while I am out there but when I get back in September I am sure that I will have many stories and interesting things to share with everyone.

Thanks to everyone that has given me support over the last few months; my love to you all. To my friends that wish me safe travels, don’t panic; I really am going to try not to get ill or in too much trouble! That being said, you know my luck…



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:

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.


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.

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.

Start of a Fantastic new Journey

I know it is late but it’s just such exciting news that I couldn’t wait to let people know. I have been accepted onto the International Citizenship Service programme and have been partnered with Y-Care International.Days of obsessively checking my emails can finally come to an end!

What is ICS? For those of you who don’t know, ICS works with communities that specifically request their help and aims to inspire young people in and out of the UK to become active citizens. I will be volunteering overseas in West Africa over the summer on this amazing programme and I am so excited!

The first part of my challenge is to raise £800 which goes towards the work of Y-Care International and their ICS partners. The money goes towards the overall costs of ICS and ensures that they can continue to send youth volunteers to the developing world. It all makes a real difference in these disadvantaged countries.The programme itself is 90% funded by the Department for International Development (a UK government deparment) and the other 10% is raised by volunteers like me to ensure that it can run in the future. Amazingly, £8million has been raised by ICS volunteers which is insane!

So what will I be doing to fundraise? Among other things, I plan to make some (hopefully) gorgeous canvas bags to sell for funds and do a sponsored week without music (which will undoubtedly lead to a very angsty Nicola – more than normal!) Music is a huge part of my life and I think that, as silly as it may sound, giving up my iPod, record player, radio and youtube for a week will almost certainly kill me. Anyone that knows me will certainly vouch for how hard that will be for me but really you should be feeling sorry for the people that are going to have to be around me that week. Other than that, we will see what happens!

Honestly, anything you can donate will make a huge difference to the lives of people living in the disadvantaged countries that ICS works with. If you want to donate to my page you can find it here:

I will be sharing my journey on this blog so please stay tuned for (many) updates and any support you can give will be so greatly received. Good night!

Umm… March?!

So it occurred to me the other day that I kind of forgot to put up the recipe of the month for February. What can I say, it’s been busy around here! I promise that by next week I will have the recipe written up, you’ll just have to wait a little longer!

This last week has been a really busy one! On Tuesday I went into London for my ICS-Y Care International assessment day. I’ll tell you what; I check my emails pretty obsessively anyway but the last few days have been madness. I keep refreshing every time I look at my phone (we’re talking multiple times an hour!) and I think as with so many matters the wait to hear something back is the worse part of anything!

On Thursday, I took part in a 12 hour read-a-thon in aid of Give A Book for World Book Day. I dressed up as supervillain Poison Ivy (the looks I got when I got on the bus were amazing!) and stood around reading Richelle Mead’s Frostbite for hours. I think I was reading out loud for about 7 hours in total (and proudly managed to get all the way through the book – hence why I look so tired by the end!). We had readings by our university Hogwarts and Poetry societies too, which meant we got to have a little break to eat dinner! It was a great day and there was so much support for everyone that took part. It is amazing to see sometimes that people you don’t know get behind you on a cause. We don’t know how much we raised in total yet, but we are estimating between £400-£500! Such a worthwhile day!

Those were understandably the highlights of my week. What else is there to say? Not all that much! My menu this week has been pretty simple:

  • Sunday: Stir Fry
  • Sunday: Lentil, sweet potato, carrot dahl/tagine thing
  • Monday: Bulgogi style pork
  • Tuesday: (microwave) Curry and rice (I am so ashamed to have succumbed to the minute and half microwave dinner but it had been a long day….)
  • Wednesday: Sausages, roast potatoes, veg, yorkshire pudding
  • Thursday: Pulled pork and burger with curly fries and coleslaw (it was yummy!!)
  • Friday:Kung Pao Chicken