How volunteering saved my life

I remember when I opened the email saying I was accepted as an African Union Volunteer and I was thrilled. I was trying to escape from Angola for quite a long time but failing to find anything abroad. The following days, I went to the hospital to do a blood test to find out my blood type since they requested.

While waiting for the test, a man approached me and asked my name, I said “Lunga”. He told me Lunga in his dialect  means “I have overcome” . My whole life I have heard different meanings of my name and it feels like it’s God giving me signs to remind myself of my purpose here. It’s hard to be Lunga, how can you expect me to be  “Strong” (Kimbundo), “Good” (Xhosa), “Kind” (Zulu) and “Resilient” (Umbundo) at the same time?

Sometimes I need to get away, forget those expectations and find myself. I don’t know how many times I have found and I lost myself, but I know that one day everything will be okay. This journey of self-discovery started back when I was studying in the UK, teachers saw me struggling to adapt and advised me to join a volunteering organization. In the beginning, I didn’t like it, the working hours were long and being exposed to the cold weather during outside activities made me sick. My naughty ways of life couldn’t cope. With time, I started making friends and it became easier…so I had to keep going. Sometimes when you do things, you can’t understand why but they end up benefiting you.

I finally realized what I was getting out of it, volunteering was healing me. It healed me in my early twenties when I was losing my mind, when the relationship with my friends changed. Volunteering gave me new friends, new interests and new perceptions of life that I couldn’t discuss with my former friends. I wonder if volunteering is really a selfless act rather than selfish because when I do it, I am thinking about myself and improving my own inner peace. I know that when I am kind to others, I sleep better. And It gives me humility, empathy, gratitude and wisdom. You are surrounded by different people, some who have experienced great suffering in life but still were able to give their time to others and others who haven’t got their share of suffering yet but when it comes, I hope they find comfort on the spirit of service.

While attending the AU Volunteers Corps training, I realised that there’s something about meeting new people that gives you a chance to be a better version of you. You hear things that can enlighten you…you learn from them, from their stories and you think to yourself “I wish I was like them”. You feel their warmth and energy and you wonder how come you went through life without meeting this person, and you tell yourself that if there are people like that, this life is definitely worthy.

It has been two weeks of different emotions and feelings but I can truly say that the memories I have shared have impacted me in many ways. I met people whose spirits inspired me, people who saw their marriage falling apart and still were able to keep their lively spirit; people who through their scars you can tell that they went through hell but still bring vitality to others around them; people who did not say much but you could feel through their energy their characters; people who have views about life that make you question your ways; people who you instantly connect and their happiness and bubbly personality makes you want to be around them all the time; people who you couldn’t understand anything they were saying but their sense of humor was universal; people whose kindness and sincerity made you care for them…

Someone once told me that most of Pan Africanism trainings are a way to fight against failed nations. He said that if we invest on teaching moral obligation to the youth, integrity and leadership, we can end the epidemic of corruption in Africa. It is by empowering the development of the youth that we will achieve ethical developed nations. The AU Volunteer Corps was finally a celebration of the ones who seek survival by helping others and they have shown how they value us and they are counting on us to create a better Africa. D’ accord?

**Note from the editor: This article was originally published on Lunga’s blog **

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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