Volunteerism in East Africa
The basic concept of Volunteering is not foreign to any individual, it is simply giving of your time, abilities, knowledge and services for the good of the community in large, without expecting any reward or compensation. Volunteering is one of the main ways that common citizens get involved in a vision to build their community.
There has been a huge emphasis over the years of how Africans should reclaim their own development and recline from dependency on foreign agencies. On a macro level this might mean cutting down on foreign aid or imports, but on a micro level this definitely means Africans themselves should be more involved and responsible for their respective nation’s development. Volunteering in social initiatives is a great way of being part of a small but significant part of a nation’s development. A great example is the famous Wangari Maathai, who started off with a handful of women planting trees in rural Kenya, which has now become a Pan- African movement to save our environment.
Apart from the feeling of self satisfaction and accomplishment in serving their nation, volunteers gain relevant skills and experience that will be beneficial for future employment opportunities. It is common knowledge that employers look for work experience in potential candidates. A lot of unemployed youth complain that they have no experience but volunteering is a perfect and convenient way to solve this problem.
In Tanzania, the culture of volunteerism is not very developed. It is very rare that one would give of their time and resources to join a social initiative that pays little or nothing. There could be various reasons for this. One of which could be the the lack of an integrated community service system in the education curriculum of Tanzania. The national education system of some countries in the West require a certain amount of community service hours to be fulfilled by a student in order to pass. In Tanzania the education revolves around theory. Only at the University Level is a student required to carry out practical training for at least two months and even in this the student expects to be paid.
Another problem could simply be the lack of easily available information from both the Ngos and the potential volunteer. It is hard for a potential volunteer to give their service if they are not aware of the need. There are many international volunteer agencies like Cross Cultural Solutions or International Volunteer HQ that allocate volunteer opportunities to people all over the world and the only reason they thrive is because of how easily accessible their information is through the internet. The dissemination of such information in Tanzania about volunteer opportunities is very limited and practically non-existent for small civil society organizations that can not afford to advertise on newspapers.
The goal of Envaya has always been to solve this problem of information dissemination for small NGOs, and in this we have now launched a new Volunteering Page where NGOs can post their need of volunteers. This page will reach out to young people, university students, the unemployed and those who are ready and willing to make a positive difference. We want spearhead a movement to get Tanzanians and East Africans involved in their own development. By creating a space for both social initiatives and volunteers to interact, we aim to bridge this gap within the community.
What do you think about the concept of volunteerism, and its challenges? Have you posted up your volunteer positions yet? Feel free to give us feedback on the Envaya Volunteer Page. Leave your comment below.