Shining a Light

I am Gema Patrick Shirima and I am a nursery school teacher by profession. In the beginning my focus was just to be employed as a teacher. Coming across Africa Volunteer Corps and the opportunity to volunteer gave me the opportunity to gain a wide range of experiences that have shone a light on my life path.

Gema with her students

Gema's students show off the numbers they are learning

I am volunteering at Taqwa Nursery School, teaching and doing marketing. I am so proud and I like my work with Taqwa because I see the impact in the children. For example, they have learned the alphabet and numbers. As far as the marketing, I am using Facebook with the name  Taqwa Children Center and the email address I am also marketing the center door-to-door, talking to parents about bringing their children to the center.

One challenge I faced early on, which seemed like a big problem when I began at Taqwa, is the issue of religion. I realized it was a problem after asking the director why there were so few children at the school. He answered that since the school is in a mosque, people in the community thought it was a school for Muslim children only. I realized there was religious discrimination happening in relation to the school. So I to put together a meeting of parents and community members to explain to them that what we are doing is teaching regular subjects such as English, Swahili, and math, and not anything having to do with religion. I also gave them the example that I myself am a Christian. They understood, Christians brought their children to enroll in the school, and we now have more students.

Gema in the classroom

Gema in the classroom

I am very glad I joined AVC because my primary life goal is to help vulnerable children. I am happy to say that AVC has changed me a lot because before I joining AVC, I didn’t understand the meaning of volunteerism or its benefit. Now I am proud to be part of AVC/to be a volunteer. I have opened my mind, my goals have changed, and I have gotten clarity about my future. Before joining AVC I had the dream providing for the needs of vulnerable children, but I didn’t know how to accomplish this goal.  Since joining AVC, I have learned many things from the workshops that have showed me how I can help vulnerable children by opening a center, where to get funding, and how to make the organization stand out. Also, with what I have learned at my placement I will be able to run an organization as well as be a teacher. Now my goal when I have finished AVC, with help from what I have learned this year, is to open a center for street children and orphans.

I thank AVC for the good work they are doing. It has the possibility to change the mindset of all Africans because Africans are used to the people who do volunteer work being non-Africans. But we Africans can also volunteer and help the continent of Africa.