ICS is a UK government funded programme that provides overseas volunteer placements for 18-25 year olds in some of the world’s poorest communities across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Bringing together young people from different background to work side by side with local volunteers to develop sustainable livelihoods, health and education projects.
Photography is more than just capturing selfies or memories of time with your friends. It’s an expression, an art form and an acknowledgement of someone’s story. International Citizen Service (ICS) has run the annual Photo Competition, which captures the essence of volunteers’ experiences during their placement.
This month Pop Brixton is hosting the top 20 finalists whose photos from their ICS experience will be on show to the general public. There are five categories; People, Environment, Education, Voice and Enterprise. These represent parts of the ICS journey, showing how volunteering impacts people’s lives for the better. The winners receive prizes including £500 worth of vouchers from City Academy, subscriptions to Wanderlust magazine, Instax polaroid cameras and a mentorship with renowned photographers at Pop Brixton.
I got a chance to be an ICS volunteer myself, when I went to Machakos, Kenya in 2014 to volunteer with the Red Cross. Here, I worked on youth empowerment and environmental awareness projects in the community, and lived with a wonderful host family who made me feel at home. It was an incredible experience; one that I will never forget. I developed skills in team work, problem solving in challenging situations and gained a better understanding of communicating in different cultures. Since returning to the UK, I’ve used my ICS experience to continue contributing to community change and am now I’m a Youth Trustee for VSO. Volunteering has changed my life and sharing that journey with people is one that I love! I know that photography is a simple way to start conversations. We wanted to showcase the best photos in a place where we could continue our work to encourage young people to strike up conversations so that they are no longer strangers from the same community, but friends. I think it’s a useful tool to break down barriers and bring us closer to the lives of others.
We are excited to collaborate with Pop because it’s a space vital to keeping these conversations going beyond the gallery walls. James Boyle, Community Engagement Manager at Pop, is also a former VSO volunteer. He agrees, “With green spaces being lost to luxury and 'affordable' flats, adventure playgrounds being left to rust and barely any youth clubs left, where are young people meant to go to express, enjoy and educate themselves? Motivated community members running grassroots organisations work very hard to provide opportunities and activities for young people. Places like Pop Brixton can offer a solution by providing that space for young people to engage and learn and share the skills with the entrepreneurs on site.”
Each photo is unique in its depiction of what a young volunteer can learn and captures the essence of what is means to be in a community.
From teaching outdoor lessons to sharing meals with host families, it’s clear these genuine, warm moments show the power of ‘togetherness’. A smile for a photo is part of a universal language.
The winning piece: Amy Smith, Raleigh, Nicaragua, 2017
A portrait of the wonderful, strong Maria Fulgencio at her home in San José de Paiwas, Nicaragua. For the past five years, Maria was unable to leave her house due to severe arthritis. The work done by volunteers to better her environment has enabled her and her husband to leave their home.
The Power of Photography: ICS Photo Competition at Pop Brixton is up from November 20th - December 2nd.