Douglas Waswa – My JA Story: The Value of Volunteers

When I was in high school the JA program got launched in Nairobi and our school was fortunate to get involved in the program. It was always an exciting time every Friday between 3 – 4 pm.  The sessions always seemed to end too quickly.

The highlights of my JA experience were meeting new JA Volunteers every semester. They ranged from College/ University students to a Bank Managers. There was also the completion of the training were we got awarded with certificates and party.

When you are a teenager it’s virtually impossible for your brain to fathom the future. Our minds and imaginations are so limited and need a lot of nurturing and exposure to the right environment and experiences.  Growing up I had never thought of being an entrepreneur until the JA program.

After high school started part-time business ventures (hand crafted card & baking).

There were two young ladies from USIU who volunteered. You could tell they were intimidated by an all-boy class; but we were all quite receptive to them and the experiences they shared with us.  The other memorable person was the Human Resources Manager for Barclays Bank Kenya. It was surprising to me to meet a young female manager. Back then I had no idea who Human Resource managers were. She was modest, down to earth and approachable.  It was humbling to us to learn that none of them got paid for volunteering. It made me feel that someone actually cared about my future.

Looking back the volunteers had no teaching background. It was a learning experience for all of us. My advice to young Africans like me is if you ever get a chance to volunteer with JA just do it. You never know how many lives you may influence.  This quote by Ryan Holiday sums by it up well.  ‘There is no one moment that changes a person. There are many.’

Today, I am a Graphic Designer for a Mobile telecommunications company. I wrote my first resume and application letter in JA Class. That to me was a stepping stone. I did not really struggle to write my first job application and resume because of that experience.

My motivation is the satisfaction of having a job well done. One person that I admire is Nikola Tesla; he got swindled out of his ideas, became bankrupt but never gave up.


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