Since prerecorded history, people with a sense of community and charity have always sought to do good by providing help to courses and things they believe in. Sometimes, these individuals, at a cost to their safety, give their skills and sometimes even their finances to ensure the success of a goal they believe in.
Etched in history for their devastating impact, the world wars also witnessed a remarkable display of human compassion and courage through volunteerism. From the battlefields to the home front, countless individuals stepped forward, dedicating their time and skills to support the war effort and alleviate suffering.
In World War I, women emerged as a powerful force, filling crucial gaps in the medical field. Trained as Voluntary Aid Detachments or VADs, they served as nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, and caregivers, tending to the wounded and sick in hospitals and field camps. Their tireless efforts played a vital role in saving countless lives.
Also, civilian relief efforts flourished during this period. Organisations like the Red Cross and Salvation Army provided food, clothing, and shelter to refugees and families affected by the war, offering vital assistance in times of immense hardship. Their dedication to alleviating suffering helped countless individuals persevere through unimaginable challenges.
It was no different during World War II when an even greater mobilisation of volunteerism happened.
While many individuals volunteered for military service, the war effort extended beyond the battlefield. On the home front, civil defence volunteers served as firefighters, air raid wardens, and evacuation organisers, ensuring the safety and well-being of their communities. Their dedication and courage helped mitigate the impact of attacks and provided vital support during times of crisis.
Locally, during Nigeria’s 30-month-long civil war, volunteers from across the world played a crucial role in providing international aid.
Even today, young people of different backgrounds still go out of their way to commit their time and skills to helping others. And Prime Progress spoke to a few of them what motivates them and what they have gained from giving their time to selfless service.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: I got into volunteering in my year 3 at [the University of Calabar]. I started volunteering because my mum encouraged me to. She used to work with NGOs, so she encouraged me. At that point, I didn’t need much convincing, I knew there were problems in the world, and I wanted to be a part of the solution in my own little way.
I have gained planning skills; while designing and executing community projects, I’ve been able to pick up viable management skills that include budgeting, community engagement and crisis management. I have also gained leadership skills. Taking up responsibilities during volunteering has sharpened my leadership skills. I am now able to effectively manage a team towards a shared goal.
But most of all, I’ve learned selflessness, I’ve learned service to humanity, and I’ve had to relearn and unlearn many things I thought I knew about the world– Madonna Badom, The Gambia.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: I wanted the experience and exposure it gave. I wanted to be part of a good cause. I wanted to help and make an impact. I wanted the opportunity to work with some people, and I’ve learned that we can all do so much more than our minds can think of when we open ourselves to learning and lending a hand.
I have also learned how to work with diverse groups. I’ve learnt the measure of importance attached to most things that would ordinarily be taken for granted. –Rachel Onwuchekwa, Enugu State.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: My passion for volunteering started in 2019 when I attended the launch of the Girls Get Equal campaign in Abuja; then, I was just a girl whose passion was to graduate from university, have a business of my own and get married. But attending the launch of Girls Get Equal and meeting a lot of girls from different communities who are passionate about making positive changes in the world changed my mindset and built a passion to be a voice of the voices of less girls to make a meaningful difference in the world.
Volunteering has been a journey learning experience for me. I have understood the importance of serving humanity and empathy. It has opened my eyes to understand different cultures and their backgrounds.
I’ve learned a collaborative work style, strong work ethic and effective problem solving, I have acquired conflict management and resolution skills, the ability to work in challenging and multicultural settings
I have connected and networked with a lot of young people across the world with a strong mindset of standing in solidarity in creating positive change. Humanity is the first religion I choose to serve humanity. Rifkatu Lalai, Maidugiri, Borno State.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: Now that I think about it, I got actively involved in volunteering in 2011 after the Red Cross was introduced to us in my secondary school. I grew to volunteer for three other organisations, taking active roles. As it stands now, I have concluded that I’m taking this to my grave. Today, I like to focus on the things a lot of people will allude to as ordinary.
Volunteering has helped me make good friends. The closest friends I have were met on the field. Volunteering has saved me from being a loner. I now take refuge in the company of others giving their time and resources to fix a societal problem.-Blessed Orji, Abuja.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: My journey into volunteering began in 2017 when I supported my friend Violet in organising an event for final-year students called “After School What Next.” This event sparked my interest in making a positive impact in my community, especially for young people, while also developing and building invaluable experiences. As I neared the end of my undergraduate studies.
In September of the same year, Violet informed me about an ongoing project by the BrenCare Foundation. Though they weren’t actively recruiting volunteers, she was able to put in words for me, leading to an invitation to their meeting. This marked the beginning of my journey into the world of volunteering.
Volunteering has not only provided me with opportunities to gain experience but has also been a platform for developing and honing new skills while aiding others. Through this journey, I’ve learned the empowering nature of realising one’s agency in life and the joy of sharing that discovery with others. It’s been a journey of self-discovery and community understanding, revealing the diverse fabric of our society and the collective voice we all possess in fostering a just and equitable world– Rachel Idim, Calabar.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: I ventured into volunteering through my involvement in student unionism during my university days. Advocating for student concerns and engaging with authorities provided me with invaluable experience, allowing me to interact with stakeholders from a young age. The recognition garnered during these efforts led peers to consistently seek my involvement in voicing out for various causes. Following graduation, my commitment to community development and youth empowerment expanded as I actively participated in diverse volunteering activities. The networks established within and beyond the state, coupled with the resilience built over time, opened doors to impactful opportunities. Volunteering became a deeply satisfying endeavour, particularly when I witnessed the positive impact on the lives of youth, women, and girls.
In the realm of learning and growth, volunteering has been transformative. It equipped me with essential skills such as community engagement, advocacy, and effective team management. Participating in numerous training sessions, workshops, and seminars further enhanced my capacity in various life facets. Through volunteering, I’ve had the privilege of connecting with influential figures in government, humanitarian efforts, and the private sector. Building a robust network of passionate young individuals engaged in remarkable pursuits has been a significant outcome. Additionally, my volunteering efforts provided access to high-profile places, including a recent visit to the United Nations House in Abuja, an opportunity I never envisioned on a regular day– Mubarak Adamu Haruna, Maiduguri.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: I started volunteering because I was curious about how an individual can build work experience (as most employers will demand for up to 5 years) before graduation for job readiness. I wanted to close the gap. So I saw volunteering as an opportunity to get hands-on experience and be able to document them and tell stories of what I’ve done. Luckily, I had friends who shared the same interests as myself. So we sorted out platforms where we could volunteer.
I have garnered lots of soft and hard skills. As part of the soft skills, I have learnt people management skills (including communication, negotiation and team building) over time through my engagement. I have learnt problem-solving skills and the steps to developing an idea on anything.
At the heart of the hard skills, I have learnt and sharpened skills around evaluation and writing. I can remember when I started, and when compared to this point – I realize how much I have learnt, grown and improved. I used to wonder where I would have gotten all the exposure quite timely without volunteering.– Uchenna Udeh, Calabar.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: I got into volunteering through my boss Prof. Ruth Bassey who taught me how not to idle away when there’s nothing on the table to work on. She highlighted the importance of giving back and making a positive impact in the world. I was literally “koboko’d” into it but later inspired by the idea of using my time and skills to help others in need and contribute to the betterment of society. I even got better at doing what I do too.
Volunteering has been a transformative experience that has enriched my life and helped me to develop a greater sense of purpose and fulfilment. It has solidified my belief in the power of giving and reinforced my commitment to being of service to others.
Giving back to society is a fulfilling lesson to learn.– Emeh, Calabar.
How I started volunteering and what I have learned from it: I started volunteering out of a mere desire to be involved in a good cause for society. I’m not sure there was this much noise about it then, but I just loved the idea of meeting and speaking to people to change lives.
What was just a passion turned out to be what gave me valuable experience in the workforce? I got my current job a few months after NYSC, and the job required someone with not less than 3 years of experience. Those voluntary roles came in handy, and I now manage a team of 4 talented individuals, some older than me in the workforce.
The commitment, time and resources that go into volunteering with organisations are never in vain. You are not only building lives and your community, but you are preparing yourself for opportunities and stages– Utibe-Eno Ekpuk, Lagos