Sparing time to volunteer with local organisation Youth Net and Counselling (YONECO) is the best thing one may think in life. This could help bring answers to some of the questions we usually have.

Different organisations work in the communities where we come from, but it becomes very difficult to understand the impact of the work they are doing to Malawian livelihoods. Now YONECO, in accordance with Progressio ICS, has got answers to these questions and worries. 

Knowing all the personal challenges that are present for individuals, someone may not prefer to volunteer because they may be thinking that they will not meet their targets in life. Back in my school life, my teacher in primary school used to say that nothing is achieved without being sponsored financially. Because of this I thought that volunteering was a waste of time as, although I was focusing on achieving my life goals, volunteering is not financially supported, without knowing that taking part in volunteering can also have a huge and lasting impact on achieving my goals. After my efforts in volunteering, I realised that sometimes we do make short way decisions, which at the starting point we feel are the best decisions we have ever made.

Now that I am a community member, I understand that in the local communities there are different taboos concerning Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRH&R) issues, whereas they fail to find accurate information to smash out these believes. As a result, people in the communities have questions without really finding ways to overcome these questions.

Where can I go and access SRH&R information in the Nkhata Bay district? What can I do if am being abused or my friend is being abused? If my first daughter has been impregnated due to unprotected sex, where can I go to get help so that I can protect my second daughter from falling in the same trap? As a community member, do I deserve to have freedom and rights?

These were some of the questions communities had before the Progressio ICS - YONECO programme.

Volunteering has assisted to provide answers to all the questions that are present in the community, and the Tithandizane helpline 116 number has been promoted in a way that communities are able to report cases of abuse and other issues they face freely. We have had a large number of youth and parents visiting the YONECO office to access extra information on how best the youth can protect themselves and the role parents have in helping to keep their children safe from both contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs)/HIV and the prevention of teenage pregnancy. We hope that the answers that have been imparted in these communities will have a positive impact on people’s lives and in a way that the impact on the villages and the community will be sustainable.

How can I be able to stand in front of people to make a presentation and facilitate a session? How am I going to understand the organisation’s work in my community? Where am I going to get the experience on how best I can do office and field work?

These were some of the questions I had as an individual before I knew about ICS. My involvement in the ICS programme responded to these personal questions that I had by providing answers. I managed to get the answers to all the questions since these were some of my objectives.

I experienced this in my first three months as a volunteer, where my understanding increased more than I expected. My second volunteering cycle, now as a Team Leader, has helped me to further meet some of my objectives that I did not manage to achieve in my first placement. In addition to that, I have gained leadership skills, as there are a lot of responsibilities to take on as a Team Leader. Challenges are always there, that is life, we just need to accept that. Being stressed at one point was one of the major challenges I faced in leading the team. Coping with emotions and stress was one of the life skills sessions we conducted in the second week of the placement. This topic contributed further to my understanding as I learned useful management skills on how to deal with these stressful situations. This has contributed to my personal development as I now understand that without even a single kwacha (money) one can still develop his/her career. As an active citizen now, I see that volunteering is very profitable, not financially as most of us expect, but in the creation of skills and helping one to be responsible in developing their own communities.

Malawi׳s development will depend on how the newly created citizens will be applying the skills and knowledge gathered from the ICS programme. Answers have been provided, which will help to create a brighter future for Malawi.

Written by ICS Team Leader Eric Veeto Nyengani