By Fischer Siabasimbi
For the past two years ActionAid Denmark has been coordinating the GESHAVO project. Funded by the EU Aid Volunteers Initiative, this project is working with ActionAid offices in Greece, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe to help build capacity for women to be more involved in responses to humanitarian crises. It also involved all partners being officially certified by the EU so they can host EU volunteers in the future. As part of the project, Fischer Siabasimbi, a Zambian, spent a year volunteering with ActionAid Zimbabwe.
What have you been doing as a volunteer in the GESHAVO project?
My role on the GESHAVO project was to support the EUAVI process through development, review and delivery of relevant documents and procedures required by the EUAVI certification mechanism/process, planning, mobilisation coordinating and facilitating trainings on gender sensitive volunteering with a special focus on promotion of women volunteering.
Why did you apply to become a volunteer in the project?
Motivated by the People4Change programme managed by ActionAid Denmark, I have always wanted to contribute towards social and community initiatives that aim at empowering people with new skills and in the long run contribute towards social development. At individual level I see volunteerism as a noble act of humanism which is needed to better any society as it provides an avenue to learn new things and also exposure to diverse cultures. It helps you see the world with greater insight and expands your knowledge base especially that you have to think without the ‘box’.
What does the EU Aid Volunteers Initiative mean to you?
The meaning of EU Aid Volunteers Initiative to me is that it provides an opportunity for enhanced partnership and networking between the volunteers in the Global North and Global South. Further it has the capacity to rekindle volunteering enthusiasm among local volunteers in rendering a humanitarian hand bearing the escalating humanitarian crisis across the globe. In a nutshell I would say it connects the world to the reality.
What have you enjoyed most about your volunteering role?
Being exposed to a new culture and bonding with the local people has always been interesting and surely if it was a symphony, it would be one I would put on replay every day. I appreciated much on the enthusiasm young people in Zimbabwe have towards volunteerism especially during the clean-up exercise at an old peoples home during the international day of volunteering on the 5th of December 2018.
What’s been your biggest challenge in the project, and how did you overcome it?
The biggest challenge for me during the project was the demand that came with certification process; there was too much work that had to be done in a short period of time. This challenge was overcome through networking with other GESHAVO implementing consortium member countries
(Kenya and Zambia) which brought about exchange of skills and knowledge remotely hence the success recorded.
What impact has this volunteering experience had on you personally?
The opportunity was impactful as it helped me to grow in many regards. During the implementation process I acquired new skills which I feel can prudently be applied in my life and future assignments outside the GESHAVO project.
What have you learnt as a result of your volunteering?
Throughout my journey as a volunteer, I have learnt a lot of invaluable lessons, I have acquired a lot of experience and new perspectives of what a human society is and what completes it. I have rationally realised that volunteerism is a cornerstone of networking and community solidarity.
What difference do you feel you made as a result of your involvement?
“hahahahhahah” this a tricky question as I’m of the view that the people I worked with would be in a better place to note the difference I made. However, in relation to the tangible GESHAVO outputs, I think I made a critical difference leading the EUAVI certification process which resulted into ActionAid Zimbabwe being certified as an EUAVI host organisation by the European Union.
What one piece of advice would give to someone thinking of volunteering internationally?
While I would encourage anyone wishing to volunteer to pick up the challenge as it provides critical learning avenues and helps one to grow professionally and socially. As a volunteer you tend to get exposure and an opportunity to acquire new skills and learn new cultures and also helps you provide much needed solidarity in these times of escalating social problems the world is facing. One must not be scared as long as he or she can genuinely smile.
To hear more about Fischer’s time volunteering and his experience, you can watch a short video with him here.