Moving to a new community as a volunteer and starting a new life can be nerve-racking since there are many things that are expected from you during your service. Most of the time people imagine that a volunteer is going to come to the community and run big projects without knowing or understanding their way of life. However, with the skills that I learned from CorpsAfrica, I have come to know that having a relationship with the community first gives me a better chance to work with them in the future. So that’s what I’ve been up to for the first two months of my service; building relationships. Of course there are different ways of integrating into a community, but I wanted to share what’s worked well for me.
1. Start small!
Having stayed in a new community for about two months now, I have the learned a lot. One of the things is to start small. What I mean by this is that you should first get to know the people and work with them as individuals, and then you can build up to knowing them as a community.
After coming back from the festive season, I have met new people and made new friends. This is a new year and new things are happening in my community. I have been helping people with the small things and this has given me the opportunity to know them better personally. I have kids come over to my house and help them with their school work, and have fun making structures that create shade for drying tobacco. These little things have given me the chance to spend more time with my community members and I have come to the realization that starting small pays out when it comes to integrating.
2. Learn from the community
As I become a part of my new community, it becomes a part of me. I have begun learning new customs and traditions that occur in this part of the country. One of the things that my community loves doing is having "Gule Wamkulu" for every occasion. "Gule Wamkulu" is where initiated people from the community dress up as different animals and wear crazy and scary face masks. It is said that these animals are no longer people, but they are spirits that dance to the rhythm of the local drum. This part of the culture has shown me how my community members value their customs and traditions and also the power of unity that something like this can have.
I have found that these two points have helped me to settle into my new community. Starting small and taking the time to learn has been the core of why this community is trusting and accepting me. I am still in the process of learning and growing as a volunteer and as time goes by, I hope to discover more ways for me to be part of this community.