For many of us, the thought of volunteering remains just a thought, due to the chaos and busyness of our day to day lives. For others, the thought of giving time and energy to something without a direct reward may seem pointless. While volunteering does not always provide a material value, it can prove to be an invaluable, treasured and an eye-opening experience. This was most certainly the case for Lisa Davies.

At just 20 years old, Lisa had gone through a tragic and life changing ordeal. She had to mourn the loss of her boyfriend after finding his body. As the saying goes, “time heals all wounds,” but Lisa’s mourning had caused her to develop severe depression and display compulsive and superstitious behaviours. As a result, daily life seemed colourless and empty for Lisa. Eventually, she found comfort and support from her loved ones and those who were there to listen to what she was going through. In this way, she was able to embrace her emotions and accept that eventually she would find peace from the trauma. She knew there was light at the end of a dark tunnel. 

The strength it took to face this dark period of her life was largely inspired by her volunteering experiences. Lisa was just fourteen when she started volunteering. She spent every Thursday at her local youth club for 3 years and also worked with children with physical disabilities at a summer camp in America. 

More recently, in October 2019, Lisa visited Africa to volunteer in disabled centres and support communities that struggle with severe poverty. One of which was the Caleb Centre For Children with Autism in Kabwe, Zambia.  Caleb Centre is the only school of its kind in Zambia and Lisa was shocked to find that only 11 children could attend, due to difficulties in transportation, and only 5 of the families could afford to pay for food and school fees. She was stunned by how little awareness there was surrounding disabilities amongst the general population and no government help is provided to those with a child or adult with any disability.

Lisa also volunteered at the Butterfly Space Mpamba Centre in Malawi; a safe space for disabled adults to gain an education or new skill. The group consisted of people who are deaf, blind, polio victims, people with prosthetics or in wheelchairs and other disabilities. When Lisa arrived, many of the workshops were unable to run due to a lack of funding for materials or tools. Nevertheless, the Centre still carried out weekly meetings for the disabled.

One lady in particular made a lasting impression on Lisa. She was introduced to Lioness, who despite her physical disability, was a member of the Mpamba Centre and a volunteer teacher at the Butterfly Children’s Nursery. Lioness explained that she had been given little funding for her school, but by using her creativity, resourcefulness and motivation, she created supplies such as toys and games, from reclaimed cardboard, plastic and wood. It was admirable how much good Lioness was trying to accomplish with the lack of resources and her sheer determination.

Overall, Lisa witnessed the strength of a people who lacked in everything. She was humbled by their strength, compassion and a will to keep going even when the odds were against them. This led Lisa to realise that she too had the will to push through her grief, to continue to succeed in life and strive to become a better human being.

On returning from Africa, Lisa’s volunteering didn’t stop; she was determined to raise funds to continue to help both communities. She set up a Facebook page with the help of Fresh Charity, and appealed to the general public for donations. In the end, she managed to raise £100 over her target! A portion of the donations were sent to the Caleb Centre in Zambia to pay for another teacher, feed the children and staff and even provide transportation for the children to get to the centre safely! 

The rest of the donations were sent to the Butterfly Space Mpamba Centre, helping Lioness to set up her very own workshop for toy making, whereby disabled individuals can develop their skills, learn business management and sell the toys as an education resource in Malawi. In turn the group is now able to generate revenue and become a sustainable business. Thanks to Lisa, the group is able to continue the workshop in the hope of finding external employment opportunities and pay for daily necessities like medical care, food for their families and hopefully step out of poverty. 

Through volunteering both locally and internationally, Lisa has become a well rounded individual:

“I have a bigger sense of compassion and understanding of people’s challenges and the differences we have in different cultures and in our environments. I have learned that with love and a big heart we are all one, regardless of our upbringing or situation.” 

She has also been able to fill her life, after grief, with so much colour with the connections and like-minded friends she has made around the world. Moreover, having found so much pleasure in volunteering and having a positive impact on others, she was able to gain clarity on her career path. Today Lisa ensures she is the one to support those in need: 

“Helping them to channel their negative thoughts and experiences through yoga, through energy, in the hope of guiding them into a life of light.”

She is also a Bubbleologist, entertaining thousands of people bringing joy and fun into others lives. 

Ultimately, volunteering has so many benefits to any individual. Lisa was able to build her confidence and inner strength, make new connections with individuals, experience various cultures and focus her career direction. Studies also show that when doing good for others and a community, you in turn gain a natural sense of pride and identity. The better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals – and who wouldn’t want that?! So I hope that you will do the same as Lisa and take the time to volunteer, at least once…give it a go, what have you got to lose? There is so much to gain!  

While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your day. Giving in even simple ways can help those in need and improve your health and happiness. Fresh Charity can help find the right match for you…from helping out in a Cat Cafe in Bournemouth, to doing the exact same as Lisa and heading out to Africa – the opportunities are out there and all it takes is for you to grab them!

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