Usaama Kaweesa, City Year London, 2013-14

Usama KawaessaBefore serving as a volunteer with City Year UK in 2013, I volunteered overseas on the ‘International Citizen Service’ programme with Restless Development. As a peer educator I delivered computer, employment and life skills workshops to young people in a rural community in South Africa. I was also active in the UK encouraging those young people furthest away from politics to register to vote and have an impact on the decisions that affect them.

It was this strong desire to want to make a difference to my community, coupled with my belief in the ability of individuals to change the world, that really inspired me to join City Year UK. As a volunteer  I gained an invaluable experience supporting focus-list pupils with their attendance and behaviour. I also assisted pupils with improving their academic levels through regular masterclasses and in-class support, notably in maths. We also delivered after-school clubs that were beneficial to the pupils, including a ‘Young Heroes’ programme that equipped them with the leadership skills they needed to carry out voluntary community actions in their local area. It was this experience, along with the leadership workshops we received every Friday, that developed my confidence in volunteering and my faith in the power of social action projects to transform communities for the better, and I knew I wanted to continue down that path as a team leader with City Year.

As a team leader, not only was I able to use my positive volunteer experience to shape the service year of my own team but I was also able to develop leadership skills which I still use in my personal and professional life today. Skills like how to motivate my team to be their very best selves for the school and our pupils, and how to work with stakeholders to take on new challenges. As well as the importance of always leading by example and taking on the responsibility for finding solutions to the problems we faced.

With these invaluable leadership skills and the experience I gained during my two years at City Year UK, I felt prepared and motivated to volunteer overseas again but as a team leader, supporting three teams of young people to deliver development projects for local people in rural communities in Uganda with Restless Development. I also continued to remain involved with social action projects here in the UK, working with Bite the Ballot as a Community Engagement Officer to empower disenfranchised young people and communities with the vote. I’m now inspiring and supporting young people who return from volunteering overseas to continue being active citizens as a Support Officer with Restless Development using my City Year experience.