By Maxim Dongmo (YES 2013-2014, Cameroon, hosted by PAX in Salt Lake City, UT)
As a YES exchange student I was able to experience the many benefits of volunteering in the U.S.; overall I completed 100 hours of community service throughout my exchange year. Volunteering was always a great stress reliever, a moment of communion with neighbors, and a unique opportunity to learn more about others, the U.S. and myself. When I returned home to Cameroon, I wanted to share that new culture with others.
Being in the U.S. was an eye opening experience for me. I came to realize that there was so much change needed in my community and that waiting for others to make that change was far from a solution. I was inspired by men and women in the U.S. making significant impact from their simple desire to make things move. I was impressed to see an entire community clean the junior high school. Those were the little acts that strangely had an important impact on our daily lives, and it is important for me to share that same spirit with my friends and family here in Cameroon.
It’s hard not to mention the various economic, social and human impacts of community service. Even though no studies have been conducted on the benefit of community service in Cameroon, we know it generates thousands of dollars in interest, while significantly contributing to the volunteers’ well-being, careers, education and more. I have experienced most of these benefits, and they are the main reason I continue to do more and call others into action. Witnessing the change we are able to create through community service is a huge source of motivation and inspiration. I love inspiring others to join us in our projects. We regularly receive volunteers who are willing to help and remain engaged throughout the years.
Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) 2020 was a unique opportunity to tackle one growing problem in our community, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Fake news about the pandemic is spreading faster than the virus itself so we decided to take action and stop the fake news, or at least slow it down. Thus we designed a webinar with the theme: Fake News: How to Spot and Stop Them. On Saturday, April 25, we were able to gather 40 people on Zoom for two hours, discussing various topics including media literacy, how to identify fake news and the impact that disinformation has on the public.
Our goal for this webinar was to create a clear understanding of what fake news is and how to stop it by educating people of why they are a danger and how they can prevent the spread of the virus. We were inspired to do this project because we are regularly flooded by countless information through the media, most of which doesn’t have any apparent proof or even checkable sources. After the webinar, we noticed that our peers are now able to determine whether information in the media is correct or not. Using the strategies that we shared at the event, many people are now able to justify the authenticity of information they share with others. This is a big relief for us to see how many people were impacted by our project.
Finally, we were very happy to see that webinar participants were very interested in our alumni activities. Many were impressed by both the quality of the webinar content and let us know they would like to be part of our future alumni projects. It’s reassuring to see people regaining trust in the potential of the Cameroonian youths.
For the future, I am planning on various projects that will aim at improving education for hundreds of children across the country. I consider education to be the foundation of real and sustainable development, and my vision is to have all children being able to enjoy quality education. I consider multimedia libraries and online based teaching to be two very promising solutions to the education problem in Cameroon, and I am working toward finding innovative ideas that will allow us to implement these solutions.