Explore long-term Team Leader
Why did you apply to volunteer with ICS as a Team Leader?
I had been working for Leicester Cathedral as an Events Assistant, and then I was on placement as a reporter for BBC Radio Lancashire. I was in search of a new challenge, something to take me far out of my comfort zone. I had led small teams before, but wanted to step up to something more substantial.
What made you decide to apply to lead an ICS Explore team?
I've grown up in the church (my dad's a priest) and I've worked in a church before too. For me, it was important to learn about different attitudes to faith and culture. The Explore programme is a unique opportunity to be involved in this dialogue.
Tell us about your team.
There were seven of us, four UK volunteers and three South African volunteers. An Explore team is open to anyone interested in learning more about the role faith plays in development. As a result, my team members ranged from a Jewish agnostic to an atheist.
What have been some of the challenges of leading such a diverse team?
As one of the only Christians in my team, I couldn’t always pray or do Bible study with someone, so I have really had to rely on personal time with God. Cultural difference has also been a huge factor in the team. However, despite the challenges, we were all united by the work and the difference we wanted to make in the community.
What work did your team do?
We volunteered with a project registering children to receive funds so they can go to school. Two-thirds of the children in our district were illiterate. We ran classes in reading and speaking English, as this is vital for finding work in the future.
We also started up a community newsletter and supported two children to act as journalists. The aim is to raise awareness of local issues such as litter and what the community can do to influence change, eg lobby the local councillor, arrange litter picking days etc.
Finally, we ran a project called Green Fingers. We created a garden and taught children to grow fruit and vegetables to generate income.
What have you learnt about the role faith plays in development?
I think the church has an important role to play in both South African and UK communities. The world is still full of wrong and deceit, and Christ is still the remedy. The difference is the importance of religion in each country.
The UK is increasingly secular. The church is no longer the ‘go to’ place to resolve your problems, seek advice and find peace. But underneath it all, UK churches oversee hundreds of soup kitchens, food banks and credit unions. I think in the UK we want all the goodness that churches provide, without the fear of being ‘God-bothered’.
South Africa is a different story. Religious practice is so deeply cultural that church intervention in perilous circumstances is celebrated. The work of the church is more acknowledged and noticeable.
What three qualities that are helpful for an Explore Team Leader?
Patience, strong faith and openness.