Why Volunteering is so Rewarding

By Ruth Mumba, Director, Abundance, Malawi

I read somewhere, “Volunteers are love personified”. I think that phrase truly defines what volunteering is. It’s a service beyond self. A journey that cannot be summed up in financial terms but with immeasurable returns. My volunteering journey led me to be part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship 2019. The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, which began in 2014, is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) that empowers young people through academic coursework, leadership training, and networking. The Fellowship provides outstanding young leaders from Sub- Saharan Africa with the opportunity to hone their skills at a U.S. college or university with support for professional development after they return back to their home countries. Fellows engage in Academic and Leadership Institutes, meet with U.S. federal, state, and local government officials, participate in community service, visit organizations to gain professional development, and make friendships and professional contacts with Americans.

I have been volunteering since I was 17 years old. But I never imagined how key volunteering would be for my life. Back then, I did it to get enough credit hours in order to graduate high school. When I got to university, I paid more attention to why I was volunteering. I realised I did it to help other people to see a different perspective to life. We would go to a rural village every Saturday morning to teach children early childhood development skills. We played games, sang songs and had discussions on various aspects of life like education and the importance of good health. I felt so fulfilled in those few hours I spent with the children and got a new energy for the new week of classes, assignments and lecture hours back at university.

In 2016 I started working with Abundance Worldwide and became part of a larger group of volunteers on a more professional level. Abundance Worldwide is part of the Sustainable Futures in Africa (SFA) and amongst our partners and networks, we have created a platform where we can remotely volunteer and contribute to individual partner projects from activities including website development to grant applications.

There have been days I thought that I was biting more than I could chew. Communities sometimes have expectations far beyond our capability. But by working together, I have experienced an ease doing developmental work. Together, we were able to resolve conflicts in communities, help develop technical skills of the youth and built an E-Learning centre that the whole community has access to. We have engaged student volunteer to teach and mentor their peers in deprived communities.

While in the United States of America, I had a first experience of being an international volunteer, in a developed country! I had a chance to cook for the homeless, went to a farm to harvest produce for a food bank and planted trees at a local park. I realised that the world has the similar problems. We cannot sit back to wait for institutions or governments to fix them. Sometimes, it is up to us, the people, to come together, pull our resources and help those who are unable to.

I believe that one reason I made it into the Mandela Washington fellowship was due to my leadership and volunteering spirit. To see a sustainable future of Africa is to imagine the possibilities and act on it. Volunteers go far and beyond boundaries. This month at Abundance, we are hosting a Volunteer from France, Julie Charmetant. We are sharing notes on our individual volunteering journey. We want to teach, give health related advise, provide financial literacy and many more. Equipped with passion to see change, volunteers can leave a long lasting impact in individuals and communities they work in. We at Abundance are striving to do just that.

Ruth Mumba on the right, with a volunteer from France at Mount Mulanje, Malawi

About the author

Ruth Mumba is a Geologist with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Earth Sciences and Geography from the University of Malawi, Chancellor College. She has been working for the past five years at the Geological Survey Department under Government of Malawi focusing on geological mapping and geothermal resources exploration. She is a Mandela Washington Fellow (2019) and the Director of a voluntary non-profit organisation, “Abundance” (member of SFA network) which supports a village in southern Malawi using an integrated approach. Her passion is volunteerism and supporting vulnerable communities and works towards supporting communities in Malawi use their natural resources in a sustainable manner, have access to quality education, technologies and health facilities.