By my hands and heart

By Kelebogile Chaka: In 2014, I saw a Facebook post advertising the Johannesburg Dream Centre's outreach. I then sent an email to the CEO, Alicia asking for an opportunity to volunteer. The NGO was family based and they had never let anyone volunteer except for family and friends. In January 2015 I sent an email again offering my time to make stationery packs with a friend. Alicia responded and that's when I got introduced to the NGO and committed to working with them on a regular basis. They feared letting strangers in to volunteer due to several factors that most NPOs encounter. I wasn't discouraged by the lack of correspondence and kept pushing until I was afforded an opportunity to volunteer with them. In a country populated with criminals and people with negative ulterior motives it's very hard for NPOs to find genuine and committed volunteers. I worked with Johannesburg Dream Centre since January, going to each and every outreach and showing certain traits that got me appointed as Head of Kids at our outreaches. Being the head of kids meant more responsibilities and engagement with the organization. I got to know them better, communicated more, planned and coordinated kiddies activities. Building a relationship with the kids and earning their parents' trust escalated quicker as we were known in the community already. I found myself teaching, mothering, mentoring, being a sister and friend to those children. The position groomed me into a responsible young woman because I had little children looking up to me, learning from me. While working with the Johannesburg Dream Centre I had to budget for transport because they do not have stipends for volunteers. This is one of the main challenges that volunteers face. People want to volunteer but the cost of getting involved discourages them and they end up not taking any volunteering opportunities. I walked two kilometres to find a cab going to Westgate then get picked up by the NPOs personnel. Regardless of the logistical issues, I remained committed to working with this organisation and in return they gave me moral support and didn't make me feel like an outlier. I felt safe working with them, treated like family and to me that made me go back and help out more. I would also like extend my gratitude to the my hands and heart team for giving me a platform to create volunteering opportunities for others and reach out to more NPOs and volunteers. I'm really grateful to have you guys leading the team and empowering the youth to get involved. May 2016 bring nothing but greater opportunities and connect more NGOs with volunteers.