The Beginning of The Start

Everyone should begin a blog with a beauts British sunset.
I am one of those people who decide they need to start a blog, then don't for months. However it has finally come to a stage in my life, as everyone faces, where you have finished school, don't know where to go next, have a part time job and totally confused at where your life is heading. There is nothing better than sitting on your bed in the early hours and deciding this will be a safe haven to write; about home, life, travel, hopes, ambitions and everything in between.

The whole group at NCS in July 2012.
I love my life, and dislike it. 3 years ago my life began to change, I went from being a lonely bullied kid with no real dreams, to a woman with ambition! And since that point my life has been a total whirlwind. It all started in the summer of 2012, when I decided to sign up for NCS, the National Citizen Service, for those who don't know, this was a 3 week programme designed by the government to help young people volunteer for their county. I joined as I was told I would make new friends, find confidence and it would look on my C.V, oh and it was free! If that's not already a reason to sign up right now I don't know what is! I'm not one to promote things, at all, but NCS was an incredible jump start to my life. I did the three week journey, and it wasn't until I tried kayaking for the first time, and epic-ally failed a million times, did I realise this new found love for challenges was a thrill! It went from deciding to immediately give up as everyone watches you and your weak upper arms fail once again, to pulling a dingy with 3 people in it around a lake. It gave me a thrill, a smile, a reason to wake up, it gave me hilarious friends that I felt I could confide anything to. It gave me the confidence to say 'actually I want to go to college mum!' and take that next step away from my comfort zone.

After NCS I did go to college, where I took a BTEC Performing Arts course and furthered my confidence, in two years of college I met long life friends, I committed myself to NCS for two years with joy! I learnt how to direct and ended up writing and directing my own play in London! I was in newspapers and started travelling around the country with friends. I found inner peace and happiness. On the other hand I also found Mc Donalds. And gained a TONNE of weight, as every teenage girl that gains a few pounds it isn't the most happiest of times, spent in the mirror naked poking at the flabby bits. I wasn't happy about myself, I became incredibly self conscious, my friends made it easier to be at my side but my mother was a constant reminder that I wasn't healthy.
Our BTEC performance of Suessical, a take on Dr.Suess. (Can you spot me, A.K.A General Schmitz)

Towards the end of college some big decisions had to be made, I passed my exams with flying colours (bar my English but I have never been one for poetry) and got accepted into all my five schools, 1 called UEL, University of East London, with a conditional offer. I took this to be my favourite choice, but also decided to defer a year, and thank the lord I did.

Then it became the big ass question:

"What to do in my gap year?'
-Travel? Duh.
-Work? Gunna have too!
-Find myself? Sure

See?! Its a huge world!
How? Where to start? Where does anyone even begin to look? Google helped a bunch in that 3 month process! It was constant websites with, 'care for elephants in Thailand', or 'Travel around India', even 'Work in the outbacks!' but one huge thing that came with every amazing project, 'MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY MONEY. And money.' Lots of it! More than £3,000 for each project. And if you are like me and simply don't have the funds to spend a year using up that much money, you'll understand when I say they were far-fetched dreams. Instead I continued volunteering with NCS, until one day a friend mentioned ICS, the International Citizen Service, same as NCS, but reeking with international benefits, obviously. Such as the opportunity to volunteer abroad, help third world countries, I mean truly help, for three months, completely free of charge but the biggest challenge of your life. I signed up immediately after I saw challenge! Didn't even think twice! I researched a few of their organisations but Restless Development stood out to me like a sore thumb. It looked fantastic. Others may say WaterAid is for them, or Rayleigh and that is perfectly acceptable. For me? Restless. An organisation that works on young people in third world countries, allowing them the voice to speak and change their world, giving them the opportunities to further themselves.

In the House of Commons speaking at the Generation Citizen
campaign! (In FE Weekly).
I pottered on with my life after I pressed sent to my application. Exams, assessments and plays flew past, hanging out with my friends became a must, and hot days swimming became a lunchtime for us! Everything was grand, top notch. Then I got a call, I got accepted into the programme! I felt like crying and jumping! I went to the interview, got a call saying I was officially through! the next few months my life became so different, full of training, fundraising (£1,500 purely for the organisation), packing, saying my goodbyes. It was bizarre, from the moment I got accepted up until I was actually on the plane I never once, in my entire life, thought that this was going to happen, that I genuinely was going to get on a plane and travel to Africa to live in a small village and teach! Not to mention my first real time on a plane (an 18 hour flight at that!) and my first time properly away from my mum, my dad, my sister and two brothers, and my cocker spaniel Barty. My College fully supported me, and through fundraising I appeared on their website, then appeared in a few newspapers! They even gave me sponsorship money. It was at the point where even the town Rotary Club gave me my last £200 that everything was suddenly real.

Saying goodbye at the Airport to my three
greatest friends!
"Oh sh**, I am genuinely going to a third world country. I can't back out now, not when this many people are supporting me!"

So I sucked it in, smiled, hugged my mother, my family, and went to the airport with my friends. So many thoughts rushing through my mind, 'Will this be a huge bloomin' mistake and I won't ever see my friends again? Will they still like me? I will be leaving the same time everyone begins their new educational year, what will they be doing? Will my dog remember me? And did I remember to switch off my phone??!"

I braved it, I cried as I said my goodbyes to my closest friends. I got on that plane and that was when it hit, I left my comfort zone for good. My comfy electronics, my cushty (Its a word now) lifestyle. I wanted to cry but at the same time I knew this was for the best. I was going to be a volunteer, a proper volunteer that helps. On the other hand I knew I wouldn't return the same person, I said goodbye to my old naive self, I said goodbye to the insecure me with no knowledge of Zambia in any shape of form. I said goodbye to the person I was living for 19 years of my life.

8 months later and this is where I am. I am so overjoyed to of done ICS, and cannot recommend people enough to get involved with ICS and NCS. Without those organisations I would not be this person. If you chose to follow this blog, which I hope you do, I will give you an insight into the crazy world of volunteering, and the aftermath of it. As amazing as it was you feel empty without that need to help. And I will guide you through it all, from what you should and shouldn't pack, to how to keep at it once you're back, and day to day thoughts on how my life is now.

I hope you continue reading my future blogs, have a happy day!



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