It’s that time of year again. Many of us will spend a lot of energy setting dos and don’ts for the year ahead, maybe we should consider being a volunteer.
‘New year, new me’, and all that.
I know, I know, resolutions can sometimes feel a bit tiring, but they can still be useful.
At the start of 2015, I knew I wanted to volunteer, so I set myself some ambitious goals to make a difference by volunteering my time. By the summer, I had left the UK to work side-by-side with local volunteers in Uganda on international development projects with Restless Development. Together we made a meaningful contribution to fighting poverty. 14,000 other young people did the same, gaining new skills along the way through volunteering on the International Citizen Service (ICS).
Here are my five reasons why volunteering should be on your list of resolutions for 2016.
1. Anyone can volunteer
Yes, anyone. All you need is that desire to want to change the world for the better. What initially drew me towards ICS was the tagline, “You don’t need cash or qualifications, just the motivation to make a difference”. This shattered most of my misconceptions about international volunteering schemes and strengthened my belief that with passion we can all make a difference in the world.
2. There are so many different opportunities
I was born into poverty, so having a chance to address it with Restless Development was right for me. But no matter what issue you’re passionate about, my experience has taught me that there is a voluntary opportunity out there for you. Whether I’ve been getting young people to vote with Bite The Ballot or supporting students from disadvantaged backgrounds as a mentor with City Year UK, I’ve been able to follow my passions through volunteering – and so can you.
3. You can make a difference
Before I volunteered overseas, I used to think issues like HIV and AIDS, youth unemployment and political engagement were all too big for one person to solve, and especially by someone like me. But through seeing first-hand the impact our work had on the local community, I learned that while an individual might not be able to solve these big issues alone, we can collectively have an impact that can create a ripple effect.
4. Making a change together is the key
This is especially true on such big issues like international development. Don’t try to do everything and certainly don’t do nothing at all. The key is to “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Do not be disheartened by the scale of the challenge because together we can all do our little bit to make this world a better place. Working together leads me to number five…
5. You make friends for life
You meet the most amazing people and form the strongest friendships through volunteering. I met Joseph Simpson while volunteering in South Africa. Initially, I thought we couldn’t be more different regarding our political views, but what brought us together was our passion for empowering young people to achieve change. We then went on to become very good friends and have volunteered together several times since.
However you decide to make a difference to our world in 2016, always remember what Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world… it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Source: Usaama Kaweesa. See Ghana Volunteer Day.
Oral Ofori is Founder and Publisher at www.TheAfricanDream.net, a digital storyteller and producer, and also an information and research consultant.