Let’s not call it an experience, volunteering is a way

Let’s not call it an experience, volunteering is a way

Learning to live with the rhythm of nature and looking back to understand how to move forward. Realising how many things are taken for granted and that the Earth must be defended. Rejoicing when on the street they stop calling you oborɔnyi (white-skinned person) and start calling you by name: Chiara.

Chiara is 35 years old and interrupted her academic career in the field of biology to devote herself to what she now considers her true vocation: public engagement.


A studied choice, to study what to become

When she made this choice, she saw Seedscience as the reality into which her dreams and interests converged. She already knew this, since 2018, but she made the big double leap a few months ago. In December 2022, she left her ongoing postdoc in Australia and in March 2023, she left for Ghana as a volunteer to follow some projects, in collaboration with Patriots Ghana.

Through her story, one can learn about the background of an activity often told in fragmented images or following stereotypes with the result of not showing what it means to be a volunteer. Or at least to be one for SeedScience.

In addition to an unseen blast of warmth, welcoming Chiara on her arrival in the country were Patriots Ghana project manager Emmanuel and project coordinator Evans, a messy traffic jam and a tide of Ghanaians bustling around trading anything that could be sold. Once she arrived at her host family, a welcome dinner was waiting for her, sampled with everyone’s eyes on her, eyes hopeful that she would like it. A few days and Chiara was immediately up and running, on three distinct and challenging projects.

Emmanuel, Evans and Chiara in Patriots Ghana’s office.


The three challenges for the Ghana of the future

They are three real challenges, different but equally important: the online teacher training, the Girls in STEM mentorship programme and ‘tThe Future of Nyanyano’ project.

In the former, Chiara acts as a mentor but is also involved in facilitating connections and communication between Italian and Ghanaian participants, once every fortnight. Under her watchful eye, she sees them mature and creates valuable friendships and exchanges. For Girls in STEM, on the other hand, there are meetings between mentors (university students in science subjects) and mentees (girls aged 12-13 with the intention of studying these subjects). The real challenge here is to increase the participation of the former for the benefit of the latter.

For The Future of Nyanyano, on the other hand, there is the fight against plastic and pollution, to change the fate of this extraordinary village. How? By sensitising and educating young people on these issues, by reading the Constructive Visions book with them.

Chiara, SeedScience teachers and students during a meeting for The Future of Nyanyano project.

The “show” will go on

Three exciting projects, not easy and not even obvious, which are teaching Chiara many things. And they are confirming to her that she is on the right path. She loves doing what she is doing and woe betide calling it an ‘experience’: this is the start of activities she wants to devote the rest of her life to. An important training carried out in the field that is giving her very strong emotions, but not only that. From a professional point of view, she is learning how to build, manage and communicate projects, how to deal with people and select them. From a personal point of view, she has had to learn not to slip into welfarism, which leads nowhere. It is better to use one’s own strengths in constructive projects, which plant seeds and nurture their growth and defend their blossoming.

Article by Marta Abbà with the contribution of Chiara Pantarelli.

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