Copy of the #TheSafeSpace Column published in the Times Of Swaziland on the 18th of May 2016:
For many people on our beautiful continent that we call Africa, the act of volunteering is simply unacceptable. In a world that is unpredictable and money is often hard to come by, people would rather sit still than render their skills and expertise ‘for free’. In many ways, we watch our communities deteriorate and justify it with thoughts like, ‘But I don’t have the money or time to change things’ or ‘I have studied and worked so hard to not receive compensation’ and ‘I will help out once I get this new job’.
The truth is, volunteering is not about working for free, it is about tapping into another side of you and dedicating your time to develop your surroundings, one small step at a time. It is important that we avoid being daunted when we think about volunteering. The problems in many of our countries are so complex that we get demoralised and give up before even starting. To avoid getting caught up in these paralysing thoughts, remember that volunteerism is a team effort and no contribution is considered inferior to another. Some might have the time to visit their local high school and give insight on life lessons and career options, others might have the funds to fix a damaged roof. Volunteerism is not a show or a competition, it is much more than that.
Volunteering, especially on a regular basis, is by no means any easy feat because let’s face it, working and not getting paid is difficult. Right? Well, wrong. Contrary to popular belief, volunteering has various benefits; the onus is on the individual to make the most of it. You would be surprised how much you can learn about yourself, your world and the people in it when money is removed from the equation. The spirit of volunteerism takes you out of your comfort zone, exposing you to situations that will improve your patience, tolerance and personal satisfaction. Spending time with people and addressing their issues will give you a totally different insight into the world you thought you lived in; potentially giving you a new sense of gratitude for what you have.
We don’t need rocket scientists to tell us that our continent is marred by huge inequalities between its people. As much as governments, NGOs and other institutions are responsible for improving lives, so are we. It’s in times like these that the spirit of volunteerism needs to shine brightly and make its mark on all our developmental challenges.
Finally, don’t just take my word for it, test it out. Think of your interests or passions and contact a revelant local NGO, school or community structure to discuss how you can help. There are no limits to the good that you can do or the lives that you can positively impact. In all your work, keep this African proverb in your heart, ‘If you want to go fast, you can go alone. If you want to go far, we have to go together.’
Feel free to share your comments with me through Twitter (@chr1sfleming), blog (www.chr1sfleming.wordpress.com) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org. Until we meet again, goodbye.
Cover image source: http://www.mentortoleader.com