By Christina S. Tamba (YES 2022-2023, Liberia, placed by AFS in Grove City, OH)
My name is Christine, I am a 2023 YES alumna, and I was hosted in Grove City, Ohio. During my exchange year, I was taught about the importance of volunteerism. I volunteered in my host mom’s classroom, I helped kids do their assignments through the Interact Club, I distributed basic necessities to homeless people, and I also recorded the girl’s varsity basketball game for my school, Grove City Christian. My favorite activity was distributing things to the homeless (food, clothing, sneakers, health materials, snacks, etc.). This project was done through my church organization called “Hope Ministries,” because we give hope to the homeless.
My host mom is my inspiration. She does positive things for the community, at school, etc., without being asked and not expecting anything from it. From observing my host mom, I realized that there is a need to make a difference in my country, because most people in Liberia rely on government officials even for things that they are capable of doing. My exchange experience provided me with more knowledge about how we don’t need to wait for the government to do things, but that we can take initiative.
When I returned home, I observed that sanitation was my community's biggest problem. Because of the passion I have about making a difference wherever I find myself, I asked myself about ways that I could help. I realized that I could do an awareness campaign to educate people about the effects of bad sanitation, as well as what proper sanitation is. Then it came to my mind that learning is one thing, but implementing what has been learned is another thing. So, I decided to do a cleaning campaign to show the difference it makes when a community is clean and the wonderful atmosphere it creates, and I organized a cleanup in my community on July 22, 2023.
Before I organized the cleanup, I coordinated awareness lectures for one week about the importance of proper sanitation. After my lectures, I urged people to be a part of the cleanup campaign, and I got volunteers through mobilization efforts. I was able to recruit some youngsters in the community to help carry out this task without being paid.
The rain fell on the day of the cleanup, but the 13 people that turned up didn’t allow the weather to be an obstacle. We had so much fun cleaning the main street of our community. During the cleanup, some of the volunteers made comments that supported the aim of the cleanup, including that it’s good for us to clean our community so as to get rid of mosquitoes. For me, that was impressive, and a motivation to keep doing what I have started.
After the cleanup, we assembled at my house and my parents provided meals for everyone. Rice is our staple food in Liberia, so we ate rice with potatoes and greens, and soda to drink. The volunteers were excited about doing another cleanup. This time, it’s not because I asked them to do it, but because they have seen the difference their efforts have made in the community.
I acknowledge the YES program for the opportunity granted to me for ten months. As YES alumni, we are told to make impacts in our community and country upon our return to our home countries. It’s my hope that others can clean their respective communities, too, because a clean community promotes good health.