Volunteering showed me what I was truly capable of, says Musa Kondeh.
Before volunteering, I never knew the amazing skills I had in public speaking, acting or organising people for action. I never imagined that I could use them to create an impact in the lives of others and society because I was a shy person. It was during my volunteering period with Restless Development I realised my true abilities and what I’m capable of doing.
I used to officiate programs as a master of ceremonies and a commentator for football matches in my community. In May 2019, a friend of mine who had once volunteered with Restless Development Sierra Leone Business Brains project encouraged me to apply for the ‘Saving Lives II project’. I saw this as an opportunity to further develop my skills and to move towards my desire to work in the medical field in the near future.
My friend supported me throughout the application process. I was shortlisted and later called for an interview. That was my first time attending such an official programme. Fortunately, I was able to develop some confidence and my performance that day earned me the role. I was later invited to 10 days of foundation training.
After the foundation training, I was sent to volunteer in one of the farthest away and hardest to reach communities; Kurubonla, in northern Sierra Leone. This was where most of my colleague mobilisers were praying not to be placed. Apart from the community being so difficult to reach, working there is challenging due to the poor road conditions and communication networks.
Upon discovering the hard realities of this community, I wasn’t pleased to be sent there, so, I tried to swap with someone else, but it didn’t work. I was then left with no option, but to summon my courage and face the situation. With a determined mindset, I set out, full of passion to contribute to the development of my country and to challenge myself.
On my arrival, after a 10-hour journey, the reception and hospitality from the people gave me a completely different impression about the community and my job as a volunteer – working to serve humanity for free. I realised how important my job was to these people, and how much my service could improve life for them.
Kurubonla is a small town in Falaba District, northern Sierra Leone, where farming, cattle rearing, and timber logging are the main sources of livelihood. As a result of the remoteness of the community and the high illiteracy rate, most of the people lack knowledge of good health practices and don’t have access to health-related information – hence, they are more attached to their customary and traditional health practices. This leads pregnant women to miss out on antenatal care and lactating mothers do not go for postnatal care because they believed more in their traditional herbs.
The issue of cultural and religious beliefs prevented adolescent and teenage girls from knowing about family planning and its benefits. Because such discussions are seen as a taboo. As volunteers for the ‘Saving Lives project’ we engaged and sensitised communities to the benefits of practicing positive health-seeking behaviours and mentored adolescents on the importance of family planning. I was able to convince parents about the importance of family planning, who started supporting their children to take contraceptives. This inspired lots of other young people of Kurubola to be agents of change by sensitising their peers.
During one of our monthly team meetings where volunteers came together from various communities to learn from each other, I applied for an Art Internship role at the British Council – Sierra Leone. I was shortlisted and invited for an interview.
I went for the interview, and fortunately, all the questions asked were based on how would I use my skills and abilities to make an impact on society. The questions were very easy for me because these were things I had learned while volunteering with Restless Development. And I was successfully recruited for the role. After 2 days, I got an email that states that I have been awarded the position. Volunteerism allowed me to contribute to the development of my country, but it also moulded my personality and opened doors to future opportunities.