By Edward Opoku
Why I Volunteered?
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is; what are you doing for others?”
– Martin Luther King.
Undoubtedly, this is one of my favorite quotes. Giving back to our respective communities is one of the hallmarks of MasterCard Scholars Program. We are constantly reminded of the need to go back and impact lives in our countries. Giving back to the community (East Lansing) which hosts us was the first step of the giving back journey since our prosperity and success is interwoven with that of East Lansing’s.
Oftentimes, people think of doing things to help themselves but at times, we should also consider doing things to help others. Christmas is an opportunity for families and friends to come together and have fun. We tend to forget that not all Americans are living the ‘American dream’. In tandem with this, I decided to spend most of first winter vacation, working with volunteers of America who provides help for the homeless, food for the hungry, and shelter for the veterans.
What I Learnt?
I realized that there is no right way to volunteer, if you don’t have the money, you might have the time. These community organizations have limited resources. I worked at the community kitchen which served at least 120 homeless people a day, with only three (3) permanent staff. The kitchen is basically ran on volunteers like myself. Unfortunately, there are few times where the kitchen staffs would have to overwork themselves because people do not sign up and or show up to help. When I asked one of the chefs about his motivation, Jessy replied: ‘Care’. ‘I care about the less privileged in the community’. I saw the appreciation on their faces anytime I took their trays to empty them. With big smiles on their faces, they always say ‘Thank you for your service’. We need to realize how impactful a little bit of our time can be.
I also got the opportunity to interact and work with other volunteers. It was a personal achievement and an impact on the community.
Is the program replicable in Africa?
Replication of such programs in Africa is possible, through building on the lessons learned (volunteerism). However, these lessons must be defined in their own right and tailored to the very specific needs and challenges of the African Region.
Running a community based organization, to a large extent depends on volunteerism. If you want to start a new organization, there will be the need to find like-minded people who share common goals and aspiration like you do. Otherwise, ask yourself the kind of problems you perceive in your community and aspires to solve, there is a higher probability that there is someone working on that who needs your help.