Indoor people be warned! If you are thinking about taking part in the National Citizen Service’s youth program, this article might help you come to the right decision. From a personal experience, if I had known what the residential was going to be like, I would not have signed up for the program. It is safe to say that it was the worst experience of my life and that we have not invented time travel in the future, otherwise I would have already come back and told myself not to bother. It seemed important to me to write an honest review from my personal experience as all reviews and quotations on their site are positive (biased); which makes sense as they are trying to persuade us to sign up.
A lot of sixth formers across the country spent the last few months being bombarded with texts from NCS, reminding us that “it all starts with ‘yes’” and several schools may have had a youth worker in school, trying to fool people in to signing up.
Now I’m not saying that the program is not beneficial. During the social action project, I learned more about teamwork and people than I have from any other time in my life. It really was a case of bad experience leading to a great lesson. It sounds dull, but I feel confident that the skills I have picked up will alter how I think in every other teamwork exercise for the rest of my life. But was this knowledge worth it in return for 4 days of misery? I would say not.
The October program (the one I completed) goes as follows:
- An induction day to get to know your team mates and break the ice.
- A 3 day residential away from home, doing teambuilding activities
- A 3 day home residential, watching a range of presentations from charities such as Young Minds
- A 30 hour social action project that benefits the community
- A graduation ceremony to celebrate your accomplishments/ the end of a horrible few weeks
Everything on that list was bearable and somewhat valuable except for one thing that if I am totally honest, truly enhanced some of my worst qualities.
The point of the program is to make the participant a more well-rounded individual, but in my honest opinion, army crawling through mud with a blindfold on in the cold, wet conditions for three days just made me angry, short tempered and constantly tired. The scheme is supposed to be designed for young people, but it is unbelievably obvious that the people behind it are aged members of the government. What makes them think that rolling around in dirt is an idea that appeals to the average teenager?
The scheme is supposed to help you transition into an adult, yet if you told most adults they weren’t allowed to go inside until they climbed up a 20ft ladder, they would feel quite patronised. We were told to ask no questions and just go along with what the leaders told us to do, which is quite a childlike thing; if you told a 30 year old they had to stand watching their hoodie freeze as they waited for their turn to stand on a stack of crates they would think you were deluded. We were promised that we’d have the “chance to talk to new people”, but 21 out of 24 participants were from the same school who have spent 6 years together.
The whole program struck me as a failed government scheme and I would not recommend it to even my worst enemy.