2013 was a very exciting year. Our second year with Volunteers really showed how our program is taking shape, and I am pretty blown away by what I have seen. So what excited me most about 2013?
1. Watching the Volunteers change over the past 2 years. Some of our first ever Volunteers are wrapping up their time with AVC, having extended a year (so they did 2 years of service in total). It’s incredible to see how much they have grown. There is a quality that is hard to quantify but impossible to ignore — the glow they have, the way they carry themselves, the way they talk about their country and their own place in it. They are growing into confident, capable, leaders, going after their goals with focus and gusto. They make me very optimistic about the future.
2. Seeing what the Volunteers have achieved. When they first started, they were excited but often frustrated. There were so many barriers in their way, such as lack of funding or students coming to school hungry. Now, as our first Volunteers, and some of our newer ones, say goodbye, I am inspired by the legacy they leave.
- Rasheed’s computer students with a 7th grade education got jobs after taking his class.
- The poultry project Saad started is providing teacher’s salaries.
- Deo secured a grant that gave his community group funding for microloans.
- Gema is starting the Charity Children’s Center.
- 4 of the Volunteers left the program early because they were offered jobs helping the community.
And those are only a few examples. Each of them has left a positive impact their volunteer sites.
3. The momentum there is for AVC to grow and do much more. We received 592 applications for 20 spots in the 2014 Class of Volunteers. When I traveled to other African countries this year, I was asked many times, “When are you expanding here?”. It is very exciting to feel not like we have to push to find people who want our services, but like we have to run to keep up with how many people want to take part. And like I always say, the AVC Volunteers are (so far) only a few people. And there are 1 billion people in Africa. So how many more people are there out there just like them? If the Volunteers have already helped so many people, how many more people will we be able to help? Honestly, it blows my mind. But it also makes me incredibly excited for the future.
When this idea came to me 6 years ago, I knew we would accomplish big things. But watching the idea unfold in reality is entirely different. It is like magic. And it makes me deeply humbled and deeply grateful. The most exciting thing of all is that, as blown away as I was by 2013, I know that 2014 has even more in store. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together next year!
Caitlin Kelley is one of the Founding Directors of Africa Volunteer Corps.