By Teocah Dove, Recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award 2015
During our childhood years, we gain interest in and are drawn towards specific careers. Many aspire to be lawyers, doctors, teachers, servicemen, and so forth. This desire comes from set examples, varying forms of media, coaching by family members or role models and, most importantly, our own experiences.
At the age of 15 I aspired to do nothing less than to serve humanity, whether that be locally, regionally or internationally. This desire came about due to the experiences that I encountered as a volunteer. As I traversed Trinidad and Tobago as a member of the Voice of One Overcomers Club (a civil society NGO based in California, Central Trinidad), I, then a naïve young woman, witnessed the plethora of social ills plaguing our country. There on out I was convinced that I had a duty to humanity. I made a career oath to work solely in the Third Sector towards the advancement of vulnerable lives.
Active volunteerism for social causes, over the past 10 years, has molded me into the informed, engaged, well-rounded, intuitive young professional and individual I am today. We all resonate with specific causes based on our backgrounds and interests. Some of us gravitate to matters of the environment; some sexual and reproductive health; the plight of the homeless; or, like myself, youth development and social issues as they relate to at-risk and vulnerable groups.
Volunteerism is not just a matter of helping someone or advancing a cause. It is about each of us us, singularly contributing towards the advancement of our space and those that reside in it. If we dedicate our time in the minutest of ways, together as a people we would be working towards better communities, societies and better nations at large.
Positive effects of volunteerism
There lies a special joy and a true sense of accomplishment in improving the lives of others and their futures. While in many cases in volunteerism one may never again meet those persons or families with whom you have worked, the interest you have shown in them lives on and they will definitely remember you and your acts of kindness. As a volunteer, you too, are sure to remember them as the experience forms part of your skill set, knowledge base and being.
I have had several eye-opening experiences during my volunteerism journey: from visiting persons infected with HIV/AIDS in their final stages of life; mobilising national food and clothing drives for the homeless (and then sitting and having a meal with them as they recount their lives to date); peer counselling sexually abused teens and debriefing the tortures they experienced; to mentoring at-risk and vulnerable youth and empowering them to see beyond their challenges and past experiences, and providing motivation for them to realise their true potential and the greatness that resides within them, waiting to be released.
My experiences as a volunteer have truly enriched the lives of others and been a blessing to my development. In giving of myself I have seen opportunities returned tenfold in my life.
Volunteerism has taken me literally to higher heights, given me a new level of consciousness and connection while also providing several personal and professional advancement opportunities. Through volunteerism I have gained valuable work experience, travelled to more than twelve countries and learned from, engaged and worked with NGOs and International Organizations locally, regionally and internationally. It is from giving of myself that I truly learn, grow, gain strength, wisdom and humility. For me, this is what it truly means to be wealthy.
It was my experience and networking through volunteerism that assisted me greatly in acquiring several jobs and consultancies, becoming a Chevening Scholar in 2013 and on June 23rd 2015, saw me receive the Queen’s Young Leaders Award from her Majesty Queen Elizabeth III at Buckingham Palace.
I’ve briefly recounted my experiences so as to encourage you and to reflect on your present involvement in society. I know for various reasons, be they financial, time related or otherwise that it may be difficult to commit to a cause. However, every little bit counts.
Picture the future of our society: We witness a plethora of social ills affecting us daily and ponder what would be the case in Five (5), ten (10) or fifteen (15) years. I’ll paint the picture for a number of scenarios:
- “Young men, suffering with several emotional issues, not knowing how to deal with the same (and these issues going unaddressed), coupled with a lack of support and motivation at home. These men find a place of belonging with a gang, receiving a gun faster than he can get bread…”
- “Young women with no understanding of their self-worth, struggling with sexual abuse, being vulnerable and in some cases engaging in a lifestyle of promiscuity, dealing with teenage pregnancy and in a worst case scenario, contracting an STD.”
- “A village child from a poor family requiring assistance with homework… A nine-year old who has no parental supervision and is on the streets being trained how to pick pocket using wet pants on a clothes line as practice…. Children being termed 'young bandits', 'junior bandits' and 'senior bandits'.... And so there is no confusion, these children fall into the age brackets of six (6) to ten (10), eleven (11) to fifteen (15) and sixteen (16) to eighteen (18) years of age respectively. All are very vulnerable. All exploited by criminals.”
We need to ask ourselves: What will happen if we are all too busy to lend a hand or a listening ear. What will be the state of our society? We are slowly losing our future and politicians cannot do it all. They number in the dozens while we are in the millions. The power and responsibility to create a better society lies with us. It is time that we take responsibility; singularly or collectively. We must find a cause that interests us, or that we are able to assist in and commit to with what little time or resources we can towards this effort. In doing so, we secure a life that we have impacted, but more so our own lives, those of our families and those of our members of society.
About the Author
Teocah Arieal Anika Dove is a Youth and Community Development Specialist hailing from Trinidad and Tobago. She holds degrees in Journalism and Public Relations (AAS), Media and Communications (BA Hons), and Gender and International Relations (Msc-Merit). She is also the recipient of the prestigious Chevening Scholarship award, and is a Queen’s Young Leaders Awardee.