Three weeks in summer: a young Croydonian takes the National Citizen Service Challenge

By - Wednesday 8th July, 2015

Ruth Olorunnisomo on team-bonding, zipwire-building and exceeding her own expectations

National Citizen Service is a three week programme offering young people between fifteen and seventeen years old the opportunity to learn new skills acknowledged by future employers and educational institutes alike, meet new challenges, get to know new people and have fun. The project receives government funding and the maximum contribution anyone is asked to make is £50.00.

A combination of outdoor activities, self-sufficient living and charity work helps participants to discover their talents, extend their personal boundaries and realise their potential. It was launched in April 2009 and so far over 130,000 young people have taken part. For more information, go to 

I took part on the National Citizen Service Challenge last summer. I won’t lie and say that I was extremely optimistic about it, but as I wasn’t going abroad and my mum was keen on improving my UCAS form (the universities’ and colleges’ application form which everyone doing a degree at a British university must use)… I knew that taking part in the Challenge looks good on the ‘personal statement’ section of the form.

There was no internet. Imagine how we felt about this

An extremely bubbly NCS representative pitched the three week course to me and I remember thinking: ‘way too good to be true’ – but I was so wrong. Another worry was that none of my friends was going and the only person that I’d know wasn’t a close friend, so I pictured myself being lonely. In fact, I’d now advise other 15-17 year olds that this is one experience where many friends can hinder you – it’s so easy to just stick with them and avoid getting to know others. I can promise you that, if you do that, you’ll miss out on befriending so many great people. I went knowing one person and left with more than forty new and lasting friends.

The Challenge is a three week summer programme in which on the first week you go away to an outdoor centre. I went to Dover and my site had no internet signal whatsoever. You could imagine how my wave (the group of about sixty of us there) felt about this, but in hindsight it worked even better for us. We all became such a close knit mini-family, as we didn’t have our phones to keep us company, and we helped each other to conquer our fears. For example, I am petrified of heights but I climbed a huge wall of rocks with the help of some very encouraging screaming from my team mates.

This was absolute genius – something every young person needs to experience

In the second week you’re in uni accommodation, cooking and cleaning for yourself with a budget for the week. I think that this was absolute genius – definitely something that every young person needs to experience whether they aim for university or not. Finally, in the last week, you do community action work on a campaign that you believe will positively impact the community.

Image by NCS The Challenge, used with permission.

Some groups campaigned to make people aware of mental illness to reduce stigma and misconceptions. My group created a campaign called Made In Croydon, about promoting the positives about Croydon. There was then the opportunity to pitch your idea to ‘dragons’ who would decide if your campaign was worth giving money to.

My Challenge experience has taught me so much about how to be an effective leader, live independently, and interact with people from all kinds of backgrounds, and has opened up so many doors for me. I’ve just finished a year as an NCS Youth Board councillor and this year I am volunteering as a Challenge Associate Mentor. To this day I still remember and miss all the small moments, like climbing a mountain or singing songs with my team members as we built our own zipwire.

I 100% recommend any fifteen to seventeen year old reading this to go on the Challenge. This opportunity will make your summer worthwhile and you will never regret or forget it!

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Ruth Olorunnisomo

Ruth Olorunnisomo

I am Nigerian by birth but British by tongue as I've grown up in Croydon most of my life. I love acting, singing & laughing as much as I love BBQ wings & a side of salad - which is a lot! I aspire to become a psychotherapist. The spoken word is my favourite release, while I feel at ease when I read.

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