I am an instrument to create change

Dinah Mohonge is a second year AVC Volunteer. She spent last year volunteering at Shalom Care House in Mwanza. Currently, Dinah volunteers at Upendo Arts Association in Moshi. Read her reflection below. 

Dinah and fellow volunteer Lilian Mtui at the AVC office after receiving their Certificates of Achievement for 2013

I joined the AVC movement in order to serve my community and broaden my career network. Now in my second year as an AVC volunteer, I have learned and accomplished so much.

Last year, I volunteered with Shalom Care House in Mwanza, a nongovernmental organization that provides medical, psychological counseling and educational support to people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA), orphans, and vulnerable children (OVC). Shalom creates a support network for those living with or affected by HIV. For example, the organization has a children’s project, which provides support to children living with HIV/AIDS or children who lost parents or family members to HIV/AIDS. Shalom pays for their tuition and provides books and uniforms so that they can stay in school.

Over 1,800 students have come through the center so far. With this many students there is a lot of information to keep track of and the hundreds of physical files in our office were always disorganized. I wrote detailed reports to the organization, requesting a new computer and explaining how it would help the office run more effectively. Before I left, Shalom purchased a computer for the office and I help set up a student database to keep track of all of the information we needed.

As a volunteer, I did home visits with patients to make sure they were receiving the care they needed. I did school visits to make sure the sponsored students were attending their classes. I loved working with the students and helping them stay motivated.

I wanted the students in our program to get to know one another and so I renewed student clubs that were no longer functioning. I organized four clubs – Debate, Environment, Computer Technology, and Performing Arts and Design. Together, the students would make art, write skits and poetry, choreograph dances, and perform for each other.  We would hold debates to help them get out of their shell, increase their self-confidence, and improve their vocabulary.

There were many times when I thought I could not keep volunteering. I wanted to quit because I faced so many challenges in the workplace and working with vulnerable people is not always easy, but I was so close to the students and clients and helping them get the support they needed motivated me. I didn’t want them to lose hope or stop coming so I kept going and kept working hard every day. Now I know I can overcome challenges and I am confident in difficult situations.

In Mwanza, I saw what I could accomplish as a volunteer and I decided to sign up for a second year. I am now volunteering at Upendo Arts Association (UPAA), a nongovernmental organization located in Rau village in Moshi. UPAA functions as a home for orphans and provides arts training for youth, women empowerment projects, nursery-level classes, and educational sponsorship for those in need.

At UPAA, I teach a class with twenty-six nursery-level children, assisted by UPAA teachers. We work together to improve the learning capability of our students and prepare them for further education. I am acquiring skills in education and arts training. I meet and work with all types of people. Many have different ideologies or come from different cultures than me. I have learned to be flexible while working in the community.

Dinah working with a student in her nursery class at Upendo Arts Association

I try to share my skills and inspire more local youth to volunteer and serve. African communities and organizations should value volunteerism and encourage young people to volunteer. Communities often value foreign volunteers more than African volunteers, but we should take advantage of the capabilities of local people.

Foreign volunteers can often donate money, which is seen as a valuable resource. As a local volunteer in Mwanza, I saw that foreign volunteers often have a hard time fitting in, understanding the culture, and speaking our language, which makes it difficult for them to accomplish very much. Local people often need to mediate and translate in order for them to work within the community.

There is a place for foreign volunteers here, but I want to prove that local volunteers can accomplish a lot of good. This is our culture and our community. We are a part of it. I am an instrument to create change.

Volunteering with AVC has allowed me to invest in my future and learn new skills and has paved the way for me to accomplish my goal of serving the community. This is my second year as a volunteer and I have faced a lot of difficulties, but I have learned to accept challenges as opportunities to learn and succeed. I hope to continue to enrich myself, my community, and my career.

Volunteering is worth it. Join the movement.