From Abuja To Ikorodu Lagos: A Personal Volunteer Experience
I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but I can still do something. I will not refuse to do something I can do- Helen Keller.
By CHUKWUNETA EZINNE JOAN
With a passion for impacting knowledge and an urge to broaden my horizon I set out on a journey of guided learning- one that would help me discover who I am and the need in my society that I could meet through the “Youth participation in governance.”
“Broaden your horizon Ezinne,”! I always reminded myself.
I’m fresh graduate of Chemistry, with no knowledge or interest in governance, the journey promised a lot already.
We were trained at the in-country orientation in preparation for the journey ahead for volunteering and all it requires. Trainings on host homes- families who also volunteer to house and feed volunteers who have come into their community to bring about change-that’s pretty weird if you asked me and I had to live in one of such homes for three months? Interesting! Then came training sessions on conflict resolution, which was totally necessary giving that I would be living and working in a team of diverse cultures, this sessions identified possible conflicts that might arise and ways to go about resolving them.
Learning about the partner organisation, Women Advocate Research and Documentation Center (WARD-C) gave me the push I needed to develop interest in the project. Recognising a non-governmental, non-profit, civil rights, gender based group, established with the mission to promote respect for human rights, gender equality, and participation of women in politics and other decision-making processes and social justice in Nigeria. I could see from the record of the success of the organisation that they are not just a name but had made impact in various communities and states and they are a force to be reckoned with.
The project was aimed to bring the youths of Ikorodu local government area of Lagos state together as local youth parliaments and guide to draft a chatter they will use to engage elected government official.
The journey began on high spirits, with blank and open minds and some uncertainties. I was waiting to be spoon-fed everything and anything I needed to know unfortunately I realised I had to find out all I needed to know myself while taking up tasks and executing them along with the other volunteers.
We were twenty young people between the ages 18 to 25 from different countries, cultures, religions, believes and views. We started out doing just fine getting along just to get tasks accomplished, then the conflicts started, personal differences and arguments unending, it seemed like we would never be a team.
Back to work, my first course of action was research, and in this I found a new me. I kept on searching, what is a youth parliament? Their duties, structure, how can young people be involved in governance? I searched and equipped myself, I found the passion and drive for the project, I found reasons to know about governance and be involved.
I realised I could tell young people what I have found out; I could join in and lend my voice for the change I want see. At this point I was certain and motivated, I was burning with desire, and I was proud to be a volunteer.
I went on community action days with the team, to secondary schools creating awareness on pollution and menstrual hygiene, embarked on awareness raising campaigns and rallies on the need for the elimination of violence against women and children, on the need for young people to come together and form parliaments, and the role of the elders as support and guide for the youth in other to make it work, on the benefits of volunteering, urging young people to volunteer and encouraging people to use their to vote.
I got more training on gender mainstreaming, effective communication skills, policy analysis, leadership and charter of demand. Equipped with these as a team, we organised a leadership summit, a parliament assembly and a youth assembly alongside weekly parliament meetings where these trainings were given to young people in fun ways, we gave several presentations, strengthening the parliaments and urging them to take on projects to impact their communities.
It was rewarding to see these young people over the course of time taking on sanitation projects, organising free tutorials children, giving talks at secondary schools on the benefits of education, addressing parents and teaches on the need to motivate and encourage their children and students and also addressing fellow young people on the need to acquire skills and also join parliaments to bring about change in their communities.
I felt fulfilled after three months, I could see the same parliamentarians I met and more new members with a different attitude and mindset with knowledge of the problems they face and also with a new approach to solving them.
I could see a different me and a different team, I could see a team player.