Youth discovers hidden benefit in volunteerism

Dec 5, 2017

Volunteers mainly from Dwazark communities participated in this year’s International Volunteers Day © Lilah Gaafar/ UNDP Sierra Leone

Yusufu Conteh, 22, has been a volunteer since he was a teenager, growing up in Dwazark, a hilltop slum in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. 

“Dwazark is synonymous with disaster,” says Conteh. “All of the major disasters that have affected my country-cholera, Ebola and the recent mudslide and flooding have a heavy blow on Dwazark.”   

The community is also famous for its increasing number of young people who are actively engaged in sports and entertainment.

In the early hours of Monday 5th December, Conteh and another two hundred plus volunteers came together to commemorate this year’s International Volunteers Day, themed: "Volunteers Act Fast. Here. Everywhere."

Conteh reminiscent of 2008 when he took up his first volunteer task realizes it sowed a seed for volunteerism in his heart.  

On that day, his eldest brother together with other youth worked under the hot sun, cleaning drains and gutters in their community of Dwazark. Since he couldn’t do the heavy work, he washed the shovels and pickaxes. At the end of the exercise, they gave him 5,000 Leone, less than 1 USD, something he hadn’t expected.  

“I never knew money would be given to us.”

Since then, Conteh learnt that there is “a hidden benefit in volunteerism.” However, it is not until we take up responsibility with free will that the benefit will begin to manifest.

Earlier at the Atlantic Hall, Ministry of Youth Affairs, Honorable Bai Mahmoud Bangura, provided words of encouragement to the volunteers. He stressed the need to continue their invaluable sacrifice in helping overcome their basic challenges.

“Sierra Leone has gone through a lot of challenges, but we were able to surmount those challenges through the effort of volunteers in their various communities.” Said Mr. Bangura.

The Volunteers Service Overseas Country Director, Rajeev Kumar Vishwakarma, himself a volunteer, says that volunteerism is a “powerful tool which can help a community to succeed even if they have little financial resources.” 

Statements were also read on behalf of the United Nations Volunteer Executive Director and the United Nations Development Progarmme (UNDP) Administrator, Achim Steiner.

Conteh was pleased particularly because it’s his first time participating in the commemoration of the International Volunteer Day.

“I’m pleased to be here and meet with other volunteers. This inspires me more.”


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