Chronicles from America: “Aikin Lada” for communal prosperity, by Mohammed Dahiru Lawal


We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone — Ronald Reagan

The Grove Outreach Center, with its well compartmentalized modest building, features prominently displayed quotes that emphasize volunteerism and service to humanity. The hallways are adorned with calligraphed quotes from Ronald Reagan and other inspirational figures. These quotes, surrounded by adorable photos of families, couples, and young volunteers at work, create a welcoming and motivating environment.

As visitors walk through the center, they are inspired by the messages on the walls, reminding them of the importance of selfless service and the impact they can make on their community. The presence of these quotes and images sets a positive and uplifting tone, encouraging volunteers to roll up their sleeves and actively contribute to the center’s mission.

After returning from Eid prayers, a group of Muslims engaged in community service as part of their post-prayer activities. Their day included organizing and preparing food distribution for the community, followed by a panel session with NGO leaders.

The panelists, Karen Joyner and Aaron Thompson, shared insights on volunteerism and fundraising. The day concluded with an academic session led by Professor Michelle King, who specializes in public speaking and employs innovative teaching methods.

Upon arriving at the outreach center, the group was greeted warmly by the officials and Sylvia Mitterndorfer, the Director of Global Education Office at William & Mary’s Reves Center for International Studies.

The volunteers were assigned various tasks, including preparing food distribution, washing storage crates, organizing cloth lines, and managing the pastries and fresh fruits store. The atmosphere was lively, fueled by the energizing rhythm of the Zulu hit song “Jerusalema” by Master KG, which carries the spirit of Africa.

The author reflects on the concept of “Aikin Lada,” which translates to “rewarding work” in Hausa, the general language of Northern Nigeria. They express a desire for more organization and intentionality in their community’s charitable efforts, beyond simple acts like sweeping mosques or churches. In their religious viewpoint, the intentions behind one’s actions and their impact on humanity hold great significance. Performing work with sincere intentions, seeking the pleasure of God, and benefiting oneself and others are seen as essential aspects of rewarding work.

The author further contemplates the quote by Karl Kraus, describing humanity as the “Washerwoman of society” that reveals its flaws and struggles through tears. They highlight how the concept of “Aikin Lada” is often practiced in their community through acts of giving, but it is sometimes tainted by individuals seeking attention or validation by displaying their wealth or achievements.

They believe that true giving should go beyond individual pride, focusing on collective welfare and recognizing that the success of one person or group should contribute to the advancement and well-being of the entire community. Only when this mindset is embraced can meaningful progress be achieved.

The author continues to share their experience volunteering at the outreach center in America. As they participated in packing meat donations for distribution, they wondered if there were truly poor people in Williamsburg and America who would benefit from these provisions. Their question was answered during a panel discussion, where Karen Joyner, CEO of Peninsula Foodbank, acknowledged the presence of both wealthy and impoverished individuals in Williamsburg. She emphasized the importance of feeding the hungry, highlighting the significance of such efforts.

The author and their team diligently sorted and packed the meat donations, ensuring easy access for those in need over the weekend and the following Monday, coinciding with Independence Day. The executive director of the outreach center explained the organization’s approach, setting up the pantry like a grocery store to give individuals a sense of love, respect, and dignity while choosing their desired items. The center also provided clothes and fresh produce, collaborating with local farmers to offer healthy options.

The author reflects on how this volunteering opportunity expanded their perspective and brought purpose to their vision for their own community, country, and the African continent. They note that their thoughts were shared by others within the group, highlighting the collective impact of such experiences on shaping a broader understanding of communal prosperity and the importance of addressing the needs of the less fortunate.

Cassandra Dorasamy, a fellow Precinct mate and research consultant at Amnesty International South Africa, shared her perspective on the community service experience. She expressed that witnessing the well-coordinated efforts between national and local government, food producers, and communities at the Grove center made her imagine the possibilities for similar initiatives back home. She emphasized the importance of providing loving, dignified, and meaningful assistance to those in need, inspired by the positive example set by the outreach center.

Community service plays a crucial role in addressing various societal needs and fostering a sense of unity and collective responsibility. It is heartening to see individuals from different countries and backgrounds coming together to engage in meaningful volunteer work and reflect on its impact.

The experiences shared by Baboloki Semele, Adeline Masunda, Njiramanda Mbewe, and others highlight the transformative power of community service. From rekindling the spirit of volunteering to inspiring the establishment of similar initiatives in their home countries, these individuals recognize the value of selfless acts and the positive change they can bring to communities.

The examples of community service activities mentioned, such as environmental clean-up, providing assistance to the homeless, education and mentoring, health and wellness support, disaster relief, elder care, and community development, demonstrate the diverse range of ways individuals can contribute to the betterment of society.

By engaging in community service, individuals not only address immediate needs but also contribute to the long-term well-being and development of their communities. It promotes a sense of empathy, solidarity, and collective action, fostering a society where everyone’s needs are met, and individuals work together for the greater good.

Overall, community service serves as a catalyst for positive change, and the experiences shared by these individuals highlight its significance in shaping a brighter future for their communities and beyond.

Your reflection on community service in America, specifically through your experiences at the Habitat for Humanity Restore, showcases the impact and significance of volunteerism in society. The Restore’s approach of accepting donations, using the funds to build houses for those in need, and requiring recipients to contribute their own sweat equity demonstrates the empowering nature of community service.

The Restore’s mission of providing a “hands up” rather than a “handout” aligns with the values of ubuntu, which emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity. It reflects the belief that we are all interconnected and responsible for one another’s well-being. Through community service, individuals come together to support and uplift each other, fostering a sense of unity and shared responsibility.

Your observation of the elderly woman with breathing issues volunteering at the shop highlights the determination and selflessness of individuals who go beyond their personal challenges to contribute to their communities. It serves as a powerful reminder that community service is not limited by age, physical ability, or circumstances. It is an opportunity for individuals to make a meaningful impact and find fulfillment through selfless acts.

By incorporating the ideals of ubuntu and the concept of “Aikin Lada,” which emphasize genuine intentions, collective welfare, and communal prosperity, community service takes on a deeper meaning. It becomes a vehicle for building stronger communities, fostering empathy, and addressing societal needs.

Your reflections capture the essence of community service and its potential to create positive change. It is through the collective efforts of individuals like yourself, embracing the principles of ubuntu and “Aikin Lada,” that communities can thrive and individuals can find purpose in serving others.

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