Participants at an Africa Youth SDG Summit

By Richard Buabeng

Volunteering is a powerful means of engaging people in tackling development challenges, and it can transform the pace and nature of development. It is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labour for community service. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue. Others serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster.

In Africa, volunteerism has impacted many developmental achievements in the past three (3) decades. Most notably through transfer of knowledge, information and technology in the areas of healthcare, commerce, gender issues, education, climate change and so on.
However, Africa still has challenges that interrupt the smooth flow of voluntary work such as poor infrastructure, tropical illnesses, difference in work ethic, gender bias, and hostility of communities and so on. Ghana is no exception to these challenges.

Sustainable Development Goals

According to the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. The 17 Goals were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015, as part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which set out a 15-year plan to achieve the Goals.

Volunteerism in the past

The gradual erosion of our rich socio-cultural values of family, solidarity, and love for one another from our social psyche partly by rapid urbanisation, economic uncertainties and others has affected and slowed down our human development. There are recorded stories I have come across from the 60s to 90s where community members exhibited strong solidarity and unity of purpose. Young men and women freely gave their time, energy and resources towards the development of their communities during “communal labour”. On the contrary, does it not appear that the youth of today may have lost touch with the spirit of volunteering unlike their forebears? It is a fact that few people would like to spend their time and resources for the collective benefit without expecting a reward of some sort.

A Call to Action (My Volunteering Experience)

Nonetheless, I have come to know many young people across in Ghana and Africa who have imbibed the spirit of volunteerism and have taken up the arduous task of fulfilling the SDGs. They care about their communities. Brilliant young people who would spend their time willingly without asking for anything in return. It is very appropriate that I mention these persons who keep giving hope to our people. But before I do, I will share a little of my volunteering experiences too. After my polio vaccinator experience in 2005, I volunteered for ACKTS IN AFRIKA as a nursing student in Accra suburbs like Shiabu, Teshie, Bawuleshie, Agege and others to provide health services for free.

Subsequently, in 2010 I volunteered for the ‘Chosen Rehabilitation Centre’ at Abofu in Achimota which gave me the opportunity to meet other volunteers from the University of Ghana and inmates. It broadened my network and improved my people skills ever since. Working up north from 2016 served as a big opportunity to expand my volunteering experience. It presented myriads of opportunities and challenges too. This was another learning curve for me. One such was 2017 when I came up with an epilepsy and mental health initiative as part of my regular work. In 2018, I became an alumni of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Network (a US government initiative to train young Africans to promote change in their communities) and Project coordinator for Highrange Rural Development Society India through these initiatives. I coordinated projects for orphanages like ‘Bless The Child Orphanage’ in Kwahu Nkwatia and Sawla Children’s home just to name a few. These gave me a heightened sense of purpose and direction.

Why you should care about your community

A strong community benefits its individuals, the community itself, and the greater society. People of all ages who feel a sense of belonging tend to lead happier and healthier lives, and strong communities create a more stable and supportive society. The benefits include:

•     Creating a sense of belonging, purpose, and fulfillment for doing the right thing for humanity and progressing our civilization.

•     Promoting your mental health and psychological well-being through travelling. Travelling allows you to have a view of the country side with many green vegetation. This can put you at ease and manage stress.

•     Creating opportunities to learn something new like people, places and culture. Increasing internal tourism is good for our local economy.

•     Promoting good and happiness in the lives of people. You are increasing the happiness index of your community by creating opportunities for sustainable change in their lives. 

Shouts to these changemakers

•     Nana Yaa Kahan – SDG 3

•     Rita Garglo – SDG 4

•     Janet Kwakye – SDG 4 & 5

•     Amdiya Abdul Latif – SDG 3 & 4

•     Anne Ethel – SDG 3 & 5

•     Vozbert Azumah – SDG 2

•     Stephen Asuo – SDG 16

•     David Naboari – SDG 3

•     Patience Agyare – SDG 3

•     Racheal Kwakwah – SDG 3, 4 & 5

•     Brown Adjah –  SDG 11 & 13

Conclusion

So, I write for sustainable change. I write to inform, educate and inspire for sustainable development. As a matter of fact, I do not get paid but the fulfilment and privilege of writing for others to read and be impacted. Thus, volunteers are Changemakers. We are the leaders of today and tomorrow. We are poised to change our communities and fulfilled the SDGs by 2030 with your help. Together We Can!

The writer Richard Buabeng is a Mental Health Nurse, Ghana Health Service

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