Article By Brian Malika.
Brian has served as a Youth Task Force Member on youth employment at the British Council office in Nairobi where he was keen to ensure that the voices of Kenyan youth with a disability were factored while drafting the 2018 British Council Youth Report on Employment for Kenya.
Additionally, while still in 2018, Brian traveled to the United States as an Inclusive Disability Employment Fellow with the U.S State Department where he did six-week research at Indiana University on scientific methods that can be used to include disabled workers into fair employment and how the same can be applicable in Kenya. Moving forward, Brian aims to positively influence the way society views disabled people.
I vividly remember the year 2011. Two important events had just occurred in my life: one, I had just finished high school and on the other hand, I had turned the legal working age of 18 years for my country Kenya.
Adolescent career dilemma
And just like many other high school graduates, the thought of what next in regards to career progress couldn’t stop lingering in my mind. But of my own case, there were no promising career prospects since I had not performed well enough in my final exams to secure a chance to be sponsored by the Kenyan Government for my University education. For non-Kenyan readers, it may interest you to know that in Kenya if you are a Kenyan learner set to sit for the final High School education exams, you stand to receive Government sponsorship to cater for your college and university education if you attain a certain grade. So my fate after high school was not that Clear at first.
First encounter with volunterism
What followed next saw me exploring every option available to at least gain momentum to where my career would head. Heading to the year 2012, Kenya was starting to experience high political temperatures in regards to the 2013 General elections. As such, there was a high probability for young Kenyans to be recruited by corrupt politicians into gang-groups that would terrorize political rivals based on tribal differences.
This whole political scenario in Kenya opened up the door for me to join the Global Peace Youth Corps as a Peace Ambassador volunteer for Kakamega District in view of the upcoming general election.
Serving as a Peace Ambassador on a voluntary basis was not something I had ever imagined in my post-high school thoughts. I mean, I never even for a day thought envisioned being employed to work and not to be paid. But here I was moving around the entire Kakamega District to educate the community on the need to embrace tolerance of each other despite any political differences they may have during and after the elections were over.
Embracing the spirit of volunteering
Eventually, the general elections happened in 2013, and there was little violence perpetrated by rival political groups in comparison to other election years reported in the history of the country. This meant that my effort in contributing to a peaceful electioneering period had become a success.
But unfortunately, my engagement as a Peace Ambassador for Kakamega District with Global Peace Youth Corps had to come to a close. And even though I had spent one and a half years of my time after high school working as a volunteer ( with no pay at all), still, I had something to boast about. This is because I had all along my volunteer experience gained work satisfaction as well as the ability to identify my passion for community development work.
Volunteering Does Pay more than money
Additionally, as a Peace Ambassador, I had benefited from training on important social change issues that were facilitated by Global Peace Youth Corps in Kenya.
Most importantly, I was able to form key grassroots level networks among the gatekeepers of Kakamega District during my Peace Ambassadorial volunteer work with Global Peace Youth Network. This is due to the fact that I was mandated to form peace discussion groups at the grassroots level with young people, women, disabled people, and local leaders. This set-up in itself built my negotiation skills for the interest of community which has been useful till now. Again, the grassroots community links, contacts and networks that I formed during this particular volunteer opportunity did prove essential to the many community initiatives that I have been implementing all through.
With such an experience, I quickly realized that a successful career doesn’t have to mean that one is paid to work but rather the progress and satisfaction one gets from the same is what matters the most. Another important perception that I started to have on what I would call my dream job based on the volunteer experience was the desire to create a lasting positive impact in the community while working.
While finishing up this article, I would advise adolescents and young adults who mostly leave high school or college with no clear plan on where to start their career path, that they should try picking up a volunteer role so that they can walk the path they intend before resolving on running the entire race. And in that process, they’ll be able to discover their passions, form important career networks and most probably enjoy a fulfilling career experience.
I hope you’ll choose to volunteer.
IVolunteer International is a Gold Seal nonprofit organization on Guidestar. Operating from Savannah, Georgia, IVolunteer International connects volunteers to volunteer projects around the world. Since 2017, IVolunteer has connected over 3,000 volunteers worldwide. In 2019, World Trade Center Savannah selected IVolunteer International as finalists of the Peace Through Trade Competition. In 2020, IVolunteer International will develop and launch a geo-connecting mobile application which will be available to volunteers around the world.