Kougbeadjo Yao Ekpe underwent a huge transformation thanks to his involvement with International Citizen Service. Before the programme, Yao was very shy, lacked self-confidence and felt uncomfortable working with vulnerable children and young people. He was afraid of speaking in public and avoided it at all costs, so much so, that whilst in school he would never raise his hand, and struggled academically. He was certain that a lack of confidence and poor results at school would spell out a bleak future, and he found it particularly difficult to make friends.
“It was hard for me to make real friends and I found myself isolated.” Yao explained. However, with ICS, he learnt to “surpass himself”, and thanks to his experience as a volunteer in Atakpamé, Togo, he gained more confidence, and found it easier to work as part of a team.
“I did not only managed to make really good friends but I can’t even find the words to describe how positively I have changed over the last few months.”
His ICS placement also enabled him to gain the necessary skills and confidence he needed to work with vulnerable children and young people. This allowed him to improve his ability speak English through interactions with UK ICS Volunteers.
Yao knew nothing about international development prior to his volunteering experience with ICS, but his activities sparked an interest in international development, giving him a clear idea of what he wants to do with his life.
“What is sure is that I have now a clearer and more precise project for my life. I’m actually thinking of setting up a Speaking Techniques workshop at various schools in my neighbourhood, and so help some children avoid the same challenges I used to have.”
Through the ICS programme, Yao has been able to acquire the leadership skills he needs to make his new life project a reality, as well as being more confident in himself and able to speak publicly, he now knows he wants to go back to school to finish his studies and then work with a charity organisation.
Yao’s ICS placement gave him a clearer vision of what he wants from life, and he is well equipped to face any challenge he might encounter while making this vision a reality.
When asked to summarise his story through ICS in a sentence, he said: “Life is full of challenges but often our fear to move forward is our main obstacle to evolve and try to make a difference.”