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If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough

youth volunteer Ollie worked in the Philpipines Ollie Way

Ollie volunteered through International Citizen Service in The Philippines

Ollie Way says he went through a total 'metamorphosis' volunteering with VSO ICS in the Philippines in 2015 on an environmental project that is helping protect the Caro'od watershed.

‘If your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough,’ is a quote from my host mother, who I lived with when I volunteered on a conservation project in Bohol, the Philippines.

I worked from 8:30am - 5pm, six days a week, for two and a half years as a parts consultant with only half the weekend to have for myself. I sought adventure and I wanted to rediscover what it really means to test yourself.   

A natural paradise

VSO provided an unforgettable opportunity for me. My placement community felt like another planet to me: the untouched, natural savanna rolled into the pure, white sand coast. Accompanied by the sapphire waters, this made for the perfect backdrop to our mission, assisting others in the mountain tribe and neighbouring communities to sustain and protect this paradise of a home.

When we arrived, the funding for the environmental and conservation office was low and the youth group from our tribe was virtually cut off from the mainland. The community was also recovering from a devastating earthquake and typhoon.

Volunteer Ollie at a community action day with ICS colleagues Ollie Way

Volunteer Ollie at a community action day with ICS colleagues

Life-changing realisation

These challenges provided a springboard to developing skills that I didn’t know existed, and gave me the confidence to initiate community action days, lead awareness activities in remote fishing communities, and inspire the youth in schools. We eventually got the full backing from our mayor and we soon saw how influential my team and I had been to secure this. By our final community action day we had over 800 community members attend to give their support for environmental sustainability and protecting their homes.

VSO ICS taught me the things you are passionate about in life are not random - they are your calling. It’s easy to fall into the comfort of a 9-5 routine and it’s easy to follow a set path, but you know what is really exciting? Pushing your boundaries and completely letting go. 

Whatever energy you put into ICS, you’ll get double in return. Whilst on placement, I found a passion for language and working with other people. Now I’m home, I’ve realised that VSO has been a catalyst for motivating my passions. They have been turned into what most would say a career path, but I think it’s more of an unfolding story.

The future...

By January, I’ll be a qualified TEFL teacher (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) with a qualification in conversational Spanish and a Level 2 retail and sales apprenticeship. I’m excited for the prospects this brings and the opportunity to carry on exploring these discovered skills.

I want to inspire the students that I will soon be teaching when I arrive South America early next year. I would still love to carry on my work with VSO - perhaps as a team leader in a year or two.

I don’t believe my host mother meant I should be terrified of my dreams but more that they should grow and excite me. That’s what VSO did for me. The experience was a complete metamorphosis and I hope yours will be too.

Find out more about volunteering