Dedication: This story is dedicate to my Dad and my Late Mother, who have always been a pillar of my life. Through them, I learnt to give whole heartedly and love truly. Thank you Mama and Thank you Baba. I love you always.
Two of the most prime dates in my life are 12.14.2020 and 19.01.2021. It was on these two dates (respectively), that I gave my acceptance speech to my country for being celebrated as the top livelihoods volunteer, and to the world, for being the recipient of the amazing Volunteer Impact Award in the livelihoods category. Yes, I still find it difficult to express how deeply overwhelmed I am for being an award winner. See, I started my volunteering journey back in 2018 when I was in school, exactly 11 months before my graduation. Allow me to confess when I started this journey, I never had some massive special inspiration. I was almost graduating and there was a gap between my completion of course work and graduation. Upon completing my course work, I discussed career opportunities with my professor, and I requested him to notify me, in case he came across an opportunity. I kept in touch with him and one day he forwarded me a volunteering opportunity that he came across. My Dear Dad encouraged me to apply and I successfully volunteered in an International Non-Governmental Organization, in the developmental sector.
In Kenya, just like many other different parts of the world, the vulnerable groups (youth, women, persons with disabilities, the LGBTIQ+ community, elderly persons), face many different challenges. I worked on community outreach projects in my home country, Kenya, to motivate and inspire youth, including those with disabilities, to build strong and resilient livelihoods. After my placement, I helped create a volunteering task force of young people with one mission: to create social change in the community. As an executive member at a Community-Based Youth-Led Organization, I deliver a range of community projects with like-minded partners, from empowering children with disabilities to developing resilient livelihoods, to training young people in developing business plans and employability skills. My placement basically, brings together the disadvantaged vulnerable groups to strengthen platforms for policy engagement, social inclusion, leadership development, and promote volunteerism to improve their economic and social well-being. The goal is to see a country where the most vulnerable have a voice, their voices are heard and count, get unconstrained access to participate in decision making, and ultimately secure their overall livelihoods. To strive to promote inclusively and champion inclusive approaches to community empowerment through participation, social inclusion, and accountability. When the novel COVID-19 pandemic hit Kenya, I strived to create a platform in amplifying the community members on the best way to respond to it, thus contributing to building inclusive and healthy communities.
The best thing about being a volunteer is the experience I get. I get exposure to diverse ways of living. I have learned to appreciate different cultures and people. I have met people, some have turned out to be extremely valuable networks in my life. It is true what they say, that your network, is your net worth. I form strong social bonds that enhance my interaction with people. It has sharpened my life skills, both soft and technical skills. Skills such as leadership, communication, time management skills are transferable skills for me to be successful on the course and acting as a ripple effect to my peers/family, community. I have gained a lot more both professionally and personally. Along the way, I did and still do meet challenges here and there, but that is what makes it exciting and builds up my knowledge. There is no better word that could sum up my journey, it has been an eye-opener, fulfilling, rewarding, and most importantly LIFE-CHANGING.
Despite further reflections that the awards have brought about, they also demonstrate that mini individual efforts do play a prime role in the lives of the most marginalized groups, as we fight to eradicate poverty and create a fair world for everyone. They serve as a reminder of the efforts that I put out to the community. As a reminder of all those who helped me reach a stage where I proudly received the awards as a mark of my efforts and achievement. And it reminds me that, however challenging life can be, there should never come a time where I decide to give up. You should always strive to be better than who you were yesterday. Winning made me realize that there are other people around the world who are fighting to make the world a better place just like I am.
Photo credit: Images provided by the storyteller.