Before joining ICS, I was sceptical about applying for the programme because I did not think I could work cross-culturally and in a team of different people from different backgrounds. But doubts are traitors because they make us lose the good we often might win. I stopped doubting my capabilities and I joined this unique programme, where a group of young people from different cultures and backgrounds came together to volunteer and address the same cause, a humanitarian cause, of contributing to community development, to be conscious about personal development and to become an active citizen.

To be fair, when I started working in the team, I was more on the quiet side in the first two weeks. It was difficult for me to relate to each individual with a different state of mind as mine and I was afraid of stating the wrong things. I came to the realisation that how we behave is solely based on our experiences. I have learnt how to relate to individuals and within a team, after having conflicts along the way, how we work differently but came up with amazing plans, how we make decisions based on our experiences and exposure, and what we guard as important to ourselves.

I have come to appreciate the beauty of diversity. We learn because opportunities and privileges are not widely spread across the world, hence we want to understand other people’s way of life. The UK volunteers want to understand why there is so much HIV prevalence in Zimbabwe, why there is widespread poverty, why development is slow and they just want to assist in bringing about a positive change to society. I feel like we are the same people, the same race, which is the human race. This makes us one. The only difference between us is we grew up in different environments, where opportunities and privileges are not the same, hence our behaviours are influenced by the environments we grew up in. But it is not anyone’s fault that we grew up in different worlds. We don’t get to choose the world we live in but we choose what we want to work towards to bring about change in our lives.

ICS has given me an opportunity to work towards improving the lives of other people and bring about change, and there is nothing more satisfying than working as a team and bringing a smile to someone’s face. I am really moved by the Simukai cycle’s Special Project. It was identified by previous cycles and they all took steps towards the realisation of this noble cause. The previous cycles identified the need and started seeking approval and getting the required paperwork, which is a really big step to have accomplished. I was fortunate enough to be in two cycles, because I got to do some of the final paperwork and also be in the team that is actually going to do the building, well not literally, but to see it happen and help where we can. Carrying bricks and helping the builders in Rowa almost every Thursday changed my way of thinking. It gives me so much joy knowing I am doing something that is actually going to help a soul. I realised there could never be more to life than to give life and give a future. What is the point really of living for you when you don’t live in a vacuum? What is the point of being rich and earning a lot from a company that actually takes money from the poor?

I held a learning workshop with my team on active citizenship. I told my team what I thought I would do to develop a few people around me, they all loved it and we have since started working on it as a team. Having been born in Mutare and spent most of my live in this town, I have realised that no one recycles Kaylites (polystyrene), used for takeaways, because they cannot be recycled. The Environmental Management Agency of Zimbabwe has tried to ban their use because they do not decompose and if burnt they produce a huge amount of carbon-dioxide. But still, throwing them at dumping sites is as bad as burning them as, because of how light they are, they are easily blown away from these sites by the wind and they spread across our town and other locations.

My team and I have currently started a small pilot project to try and find ways to reuse and recycle these Kaylites, either by making quilts for homeless people, or anything that comes out of it. We have collected about ten bin bags full of these from the streets and parks, and this was just within an hour, which shows just how many there are. Although we are not sure yet if we are being over ambitious or actually venturing into something that will benefit a lot of people in the future, I am so excited to be part of it, because we might be able to help the needy and at the same time save the environment from environmentally-unfriendly packaging.

If I did not join ICS, I would probably be job hunting and not doing anything that would help my community. But now I feel like I have a purpose to live for and I don’t mind not being formally employed ever, as long as I get to work with the community and develop my community.

Written by national Team Leader Tafadzwa Monalisa Gora (Team Simukai Rowa Runners, January - June 2016 cycles, Mutare, Zimbabwe)