International Women’s Day: “I think I was born a volunteer”

Published: 7 March 2011 15:52 CET

Amal Emam, Egyptian Red Crescent volunteer

I think I was born a volunteer because I have always believed that we have an obligation to help others attain their rights as we would endeavour to attain our own.

I was raised in a family that encourages volunteering, and I have volunteered in many organizations since my early childhood. The fact that the Red Cross Red Crescent is the largest humanitarian organization in the world, and its humanitarian mission is based on fundamental principles I believe in, convinced me to join.

Since I started volunteering with the Egyptian Red Crescent I have been a part of their efforts to reach the most vulnerable groups in our community. It is worth a lot to belong to an organization where impartiality, neutrality and non-discrimination are not only highly appreciated but actually applied, and where human dignity is at the heart of the work.

As Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Volunteering gives me the confidence to make a change and to contribute to improving my community. It helps me get closer to the people and their needs, and to put myself in others’ shoes so I can feel what they feel. Volunteering has taught me to freely express myself, to respect our differences and to build on commonalities. It gives me the satisfaction that I seek in my life and the energy to sustain it.

I think that the volunteering experience as a whole has had a positive impact on my life. However, one of my best experiences was three years ago, when I had the chance to participate in the Mali Experience together with 40 other participants, who were all part of the initial group for the principles and values department’s YABC initiative – youth as agents of behavioural change.

We spent a whole day travelling, reaching a hut by night. We slept on a hard bed and shared a hole in the ground as a bathroom. We carried out our training sitting in the sand, and we had no electricity or connection with the outside world. I worked with people I had never met before, who spoke different languages, people who came from all over the world.

Imagine living in a jungle with only very basic necessities for a week… but no one complained, and we actually enjoyed ourselves and the experience. Our differences brought us together instead of setting us apart. We built on common ground and made the best of it. Besides, the happiness of the local people was very inspiring.

It was a unique chance for me to experience the principle of humanity, which doesn’t require a lot except an open heart and a positive attitude. This valuable experience created a worldwide family of people who have one goal: to be the agents of behavioural change.

I can say that I am the product of this experience, which inspired me in my work as a young doctor to treat people, who are at their weakest point and facing their hardest times, with humanity. This experience also empowered me as woman with great ambitions and special influence within my family. It enriched me as a human being, it connected me to my identity as an Arabian and made me feel self-respect and not discriminated against.

It helped me to think critically – sometimes a small thing you do can mean everything to another person's life.

It has influenced me as a volunteer and a youth leader in the Egyptian Red Crescent, with responsibility towards my colleagues to be a role model, embodying what we say, and working cooperatively and creatively. 

It also made me a good citizen who loves her country, and who tries to contribute in every way possible for positive change.

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