“The best gift a person can give to his society or environment is Volunteerism. This is a great opportunity on a high level. I am grateful to the AUYVC program” – Pamela Amavi Nenyewode, a beneficiary of the Youth Volunteers Programme from Ghana.

During my national service days back in 2018, getting a free ride to work every morning was very beneficial for me. At 7 o'clock each morning I had to be readily prepared to meet Bennett at the bus stop to go work. Bennett was a work colleague at the company where I worked but in a different office. Joining him every morning was very exciting. He never ceased to arouse my interest about other African countries whenever he shared his exciting experiences during his visits to most of the African countries including Kenya. “Kenya is one of the beautiful African countries with exciting and adorable tourist site attractions, the Aqua Safaris and they are well known for exportation of beautiful flowers to many countries, take this opportunity to go there,” He said. As a young African lady, my love and enthusiasm to help people and travel started very early. 

I remember those days at a very tender age, my mother used to have a sack full of potatoes and whenever someone comes to visit my parents, I will take a polythene bag and fetch some potatoes for them when they are leaving, doing that really made me happy. During that early stage of my life, I never turned down any opportunity to explore other environments. As time went by, I realized I have developed the love to travel and to help people. For this reason, I made a decision during my undergraduate studies at University of Ghana Legon to join the volunteering group in my church (Catholic) to go to rural areas to preach the word of God and teach in schools for two weeks during vacations. This created a perfect symbiosis between my enthusiasm to help others and travel. My national service was eventually coming to an end, and thinking about what to do next was the order of the day for many graduates. 

I was about to go to bed one evening when I received a message from a friend (Dorcas) to apply for a volunteering program (AUYVC). The date for submission was almost ending. I hurriedly applied for it knowing the opportunity it presents to develop and share my skills and enthusiasm. 

The AUYVC is a continental development program that recruits, trains and works with youth volunteers across 55 African countries. The program seeks to promote volunteering to deepen the status of young people in Africa as key participants in the delivery of Africa's human development targets and goals. My journey as an African Union Youth Volunteer started in October 2018, I was one of the three Ghanaian youth selected from over 7,000 applications across the 55 African countries for the 9th Cohort. I must confess this news brought me great joy but on the other hand I was sad because I did not have a passport at the time. My husband (then my boyfriend) gave me some money to quickly start the process. Thanks to him. I communicated this challenge to Daniel (The Youth Officer), since the process might be delayed and I did not want to miss this great opportunity to travel to another African country by Air to be precise, I could not imagine myself in an airplane for the first time, Hahaha”. Thank God, he gave me some time, even though I could not meet the deadline, I was pardoned. I had my pre- deployment training in Brazzaville Congo for two weeks from 19th November to 1st December, 2018 together with 85 other youths across 55 African countries. 

The training gave me the opportunity to meet and connect with these young volunteers from various fields of educational and professional backgrounds. During the two weeks, I kept thanking God for this opportunity because I felt so blessed to be part of the program and guess what? I had a lots of fun and exciting moments with my new acquaintances, starting from the early morning body exercise to the evening display of individuals’ culture in different forms. The AUYC is driven by three principles that is Youth Empowerment, Pan Africanism and the Spirit of service. With this drive at the back of our minds we were fully charged to go out of our comfort zones to work in a country other than our own. The AUY volunteers are deployed strictly in non-profit organizations where their impact and contributions can be relevant. 

This would typically be in International Settings, Government offices or ministries etc. For the first time in the history of the AUYVC due to the outbreak of the COVID 19 pandemic, volunteers had to work from their home country virtually instead of traveling to work in a country other than their own. I was deployed to Kenya, my dream African country but unfortunately I could not be there physically. I strongly believe that I have been there and felt the environment virtually. I was on boarded virtually on 1st June, 2020. I worked with Ashoka Africa, One of the top 5 Non-Governmental Organizations in the world. It operates in about 90 countries with 4 regional offices in Africa such as Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Kenya. I worked closely with the East African team in Kenya Honestly speaking, I did not know what working from home was going to be like because it was my first time. But as time passed by I enjoyed it and even thought of it as the best in the sense that I did not have to think about what to wear to work, sitting in traffic for long hours before getting to work was over. Kenya is roughly 3 hours in time ahead of Ghana. When I started working the time difference was a little of a challenge to me since I was always forgetting that there is a difference in time so I need to start my day as early as 5am. However, I could say for a fact that working from home has really taught me to be more disciplined and responsible. For the few years that I have worked, I realized that employees produce results and meet targets when there is high supervision other than when there is low supervision. People want eyes to be fixed on them before they would do the right things but in my case of zero supervision, on a scale of 1 to 10, the rating is 9/10. Working with Ashoka, I supported with venture and fellowship work in East Africa by updating the nominators’ and candidates’ pipeline databases and also Fellowship engagement by collating Fellow news and other updates for dissemination.

Again, I also supported in successfully carrying out our mentorship programs with the SESOK members. During this program, I was in charge of creating mentees profiles using their response from surveys, consistently following up on them to submit their contract of participation. I remember how one day my consistency from following up brought my supervisor some joy and relief. His very words were “Thank you Pamela for following up with the mentees.” Moreover, I also had the opportunity to coordinate the mentorship program on some occasions and to me it was a great milestone and I do not take it lightly at all. During the Cohort 2 Mentorship Program, I was assigned to identify experts to connect with in terms of their knowledge in the identified gaps or needs of the mentees. Working with Ashoka for these few months is a dream come true for me. During my high school days, I was always confessing that I am going to work with international NGOs and truly it happened. I must say for a fact that even though I was not physically present with my colleagues most especially during our meetings, I participated just exactly as If I was with them. The icebreakers during meetings made it more exciting. To me, I was in my host organization and community in person even though it was virtual. The Ashoka East Africa team is an amazing one, I tell you. The collaborative and team spirit towards work is fantastic and mind blowing. Among the important values I am going to keep from my host organization is trust, accountability, wellbeing, growth, empathy, and transparency in all my future endeavours. I had all the support and assistance I needed to get my work done. I would like to take this opportunity to thank God for this blessing graced upon me and my family, the AU for this life impacting opportunity and my host organization for welcoming me into their family. In short I will say in my mother tongue-Ewe Akpe Na Mawu, meaning God bless you.

Youth Volunteer

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