Volunteerism In Liberia ----My Experience With FIND

By Augustus D.R. Bortue-drbrortue@yahoo.com

While on my way home from work recently, I made a stopover to a popular entertainment center on Ashmun Street, Monrovia to amuse myself. 

No sooner did I disembark from my vehicle, I heard the voices of some young Liberians who were embroiled in a heated political discussion. Guess what they were discussing, joblessness-being without out a job.

Nowadays, politics and sports dominate most social and major gatherings. Already, the much publicized 2017 Presidential and Representative Elections are around the corner and the ongoing leagues in Europe and other parts of the world are intensifying. 

During the heated discussion, the discussants, among other things, decried the high unemployment rate in the country, stressing that it was attributing to the increasing economic hardships in the country.

“This Government promised some eleven (11) years ago to address the high unemployment in the country, particularly among us the youth population.

Today, most of us are unemployed and hope for our future seems bleak,” asserted some of the discussants, while expressing frustration over the declining economic condition of the country.

“If this Government had adequately addressed the huge unemployment rate in the country, the economic hardships we are experiencing today would have been reduced to a considerable level. Once there is high unemployment rate, we will continue to suffer, as life would remain unbearable,” they lamented.         

The government had persistently acknowledged the high unemployment rate in country and has since considered it as a major challenge to the rejuvenation of the country following over decade of armed conflict, which brought the country to its knees.

 Conversely, the government had vehemently differed with critics that it had done little in addressing the huge joblessness.

The government, which is headed by Liberia and Africa first female president, had bragged that it had provided jobs to many jobless people and that it had created the enabling environment to providing many more jobs even though it-government continuously concedes that the unemployment gap is still wide.

Regarding the growing economic hardships in the country, the government blamed it on  the decline of global prices of  two of the country’s major exports commodities-iron and rubber, and lower donor budget support triggered by the frontloading of donors commitment in 2014 to response to the outbreak of the Ebola Virus Disease(EVD), which claimed  thousands of precious lives.

While the young folks were heavily involved in their unemployment debate, a gentleman, whom I considered as a “keen observer”, remarked: “In as much as I share these young men concerns about the unemployment problem in our country, our unemployed youth population also needs to cultivate the spirit of service to the nation through volunteerism. By so doing, they will not only be contributing their quota to the development of the country, but will also be creating employment opportunities for themselves.”

The gentleman, who did not comment further on the need for youth involvement in volunteerism, like me from job, had gone to the entertainment center to amuse himself.

 Even though his contribution to the debate was downplayed by the discussants, for me, I took keen interest in his brief contribution to the “politically charged debate”. 

Honestly, we, Liberians, especially the young people must get hugely involved in volunteerism.

Volunteerism, mostly through the efforts of young people, is a major lifeblood for national development.

As the government strives to provide basic social services to the people,  I think the  young people  are under national obligations to assist with community cleaning, environmental awareness, governance practices and electoral sensitization amongst their peers and other citizens.

The reason why I took interest in the “keen observer” comments is because of my experience with volunteerism and its importance, mainly in a country like ours where unemployment remains a huge challenge.

My Experience

During the latter part of 2016, I attended the annual retreat of the Foundation for International Dignity (FIND) at its Headquarters in Gbarnga, Bong County. FIND, an acclaimed pro-democracy and human right organization, advances the culture of human dignity through empowering people experiencing all forms of injustices. Transparency and accountability is a hull mark of the organization’s work.

The annual retreat, which is meant for FIND to review its activities-prospects, challenges and the vision for the New Year, was attended by the organization’s Board Chair, Bishop Anthony Borwa, FIND’s Executive Director, Mr. Roosevelt A.K. Woods, Mr. Aaron Juakollie, National Executive Officer, FIND, Madam Lema Gonber, FIND/AGEH Civil Peace Advisor, present and incoming Board Members of FIND, volunteers of FIND, among others. In his welcoming statement, FIND’s Board Chair, Bishop Borwah, welcomed everyone for coming to the treat, especially those who had traveled from Monrovia to Gbarnga for the annual program, which was well-attended.

The Board is the highest decision making body of FIND. It approves, disapproves and promulgates new management policies and program, etc. 

Accordingly, Board Chair Borwah, while commending all staff, employees, volunteers and partners of FIND for their hard work and commitment in moving the wheels of the organization forward despite the difficult times, encouraged them to continue their hard work in the New Year-2017.

Bishop Borwah had special words of appreciations for the FIND’s volunteers, saying: “We want to appreciate you-you have brightened the work of FIND, going without salaries is magnanimous, so we want to appreciate you for the marvelous work you are doing not only for FIND, but for your people and your country as a whole.”

He then made a passionate appeal to the FIND’s volunteers, who and others were honored for their hard work and commitment to the promotion of the pro-democracy and human rights organization.

He admonished them to consider their honor as a challenge to work harder for humanity and the enhancement of their country.

Some of the volunteers, who were honored, included: Ms. Dedder Johnson; Mr. Aaron  Juakollie; Mr. Abraham Kerkula; Sister Mary Laurence Browne and Dr. Henrique F. Tokpa.

Following the welcoming remarks, FIND’s Executive Director, Mr. Roosevelt A.K. Woods, highlighted the current, on-going &pending projects(2014-2016) and the activities it intends to carryout in 2017.

Mr. Woods, who gave a brief history of FIND, recalled that the organization has over the past several years partnered with more than 500 communities in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

According to Mr. Woods, FIND succeeded in mitigating conflicts that could have led to violent explosion between and amongst refugees, IDPs, returnees, host community residents, humanitarian and other service provider organization through its people-to-people contract building programs.

 He said FIND also provides legal aid to survivors through social workers, pro-bono attorneys and partner organizations. “FIND carries out behavior change through a variety of different awareness-raising methods on Liberian laws such as the rape law, the rights of women and children and the process of referrals,” he added. 

 

Giving the Analysis of 2016 Programs and Activities, Mr. Woods, who praised the staffs of FIND including volunteers and  employees  for their commitment and hard work, admitted that the year 2016 was a challenging one.

“Like many key pro-democracy and human rights organizations operating in the country, FIND is also experiencing donors’ fatigue. However, we have been involved in several democratic and human rights driven activities mainly in Bong, Nimba,  Grand Gedeh and Lofa Counties, with Gbarnga City, Bong being our main base.” Mr. Woods pointed out.

“We carried our public awareness on the Gbarnga Regional Justice and security Hub, fostered peace between law enforcement officers and motorcyclists as well as community members as a means of resolving and preventing conflict and discussion of the peace roadmap within the ten schools in Totota, Gbarnga, Zoewenta, Dean’s Town in Gold. Consolidated democratic governance processes and peace in Bong, Lofa, & Grand Gedeh Counties, ahead of the 2017Elections,” the FIND’s boss, among other things, underscored. 

The retreat, among other things, ended with a commitment to work harder in 2017, especially for the successful conduct of the 2017 Presidential and Representative Elections.

During the retreat, I was delighted when the staffs of FIND, mainly the volunteers were given their flowers for their sacrificial services-I mean services that are noticeable and human driven. 

From that forum, I realized that volunteerism needs to be embraced all Liberians.

Honestly, volunteering is a great way to give back to your community and help those less fortunate, but you may not realize it can benefit your career as well.

Volunteering can help you demonstrate and build skills that can help you land a new job or advance at your current company. It can also show you're a go-getter who takes initiative to keep busy and make yourself useful. Studies have shown that volunteering strengthens communities, is good for your healthand job. However, if you are a busy professional, it can be challenging to find an opportunity that allows you to give back and move forward. Chances are, you want to do something related to a cause you truly care about, that fits into your busy schedule, and that can make the best use of your talents—maybe even giving you the opportunity to bolster your professional reputation.

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