Goodbye from the Senior Chief Executive of Womankind Volunteers
It’s three o’clock, from the window I can see that it’s grey outside. In two weeks I’ll leave my role of Senior Chief Executive of Volunteers at Womankind. This is what I call myself ironically, having been a volunteer in the office for exactly two years.
When I started I decided that I would stay for a few months, maximum six. But life is unpredictable and sometimes you get hooked on something. Although getting hooked on Womankind is not that bad, and I probably won’t need a V.I.P. rehab after.
I should say: the early starts are tough for me, I need a long morning before I can be within a mile of that old, slow computer. And yes, when it is sunny outside after a ridiculous “summer,” I’d rather lie on the grass in the park eating ice cream. I think lots of people would agree with me. So how did I endure volunteering for two years? And remember, this is two days a week alongside my job and taking some extra work editing some Womankind videos.
On one wall of the office there is a picture of a Bolivian woman smiling. Every time I raise my head she is there and she smiles with the sun, with the rain and the hail. She smiles in the morning when I arrive in the office drenched with my blue rain coat. She smiles when in the early afternoon I would rather be having a little nap. I look at her and all these things come after.
I’ve looked through Womankind’s photo archive a thousand times for some tasks I had to do. Through those pictures I’ve got to know Nepali widows bending over a sewing machine, or proudly showing their brand new kiosk which Women For Human Rights helped them to buy. I read their stories, how they survived violence and had been forsaken by the society, and how they are now starting their own business and a new life with that.
The picture “Rachel and her baby in the Musasa shelter” from Zimbabwe was one of those I used the most, at least five times a day when I was helping to write funding applications. I know that she and her baby were looking for shelter, escaping from a situation that made their lives unbearable.
At rock bottom Rachel found a safe place to stay with Musasa and the opportunity to start a new life with some new skills, that will give her and her baby a decent livelihood and independence.
In the two years I’ve been volunteering I’ve met some of our partners. Once Betty, an 18 year old from Peru, visited the office. She is a volunteer ‘health promoter’ working with our partner Fepromu to give young people the information and confidence they need to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
When I was 18 I was just thinking about my driving licence and going to the next gig. But there she is, she knows what she wants and she fights for her friends and for other teenagers she doesn’t even know.
Volunteering at Womankind gave me the opportunity to read all these stories, to meet people who were part of these stories, people who are changing the course of history, and I wanted to be part of this process. And I’ve learnt firsthand that if you change women’s lives you’ll probably change children’s lives and men’s lives for the better too. The end result is a better, fairer world. Am I over optimistic? Well when you see small changes, you can put them all together and see big changes.
Womankind is not only that. It is also a great team of workers and volunteers that made my staying in the office much more pleasant. It is relentless – working, finding solutions, enjoying success, examining problems. It is a team of tireless people who believe in change. I’ve learn a lot, professionally and personally, from Womankind staff and volunteers. And my thanks are huge. They gave me the opportunity to grow and to believe in the possibility that things can change.
Now my time is over. I am going to Chile. Hopefully I will find some women’s organisations that need me. I also hope to go and meet the Bolivian and Peruvian organisations I got to know at Womankind, maybe make some videos about their work, maybe just to meet these brave women who want the future be different from the past. I hope I can keep on collaborating with Womankind.
But this is another chapter and I don’t dare to write yet.
Thank you all.
Post by Super Volunteer Giuliana Barbaro.
Find out more about volunteering at Womankind.