More than a reason
Why volunteer with StreetDoctors? That’s a question I’ve asked myself. For some, it looks good on a CV. For others, maybe it’s the concept of getting medical students to teach first aid to at-risk young people that’s so intriguing, as well as be a part of something bigger. For some, the opportunity to make a difference. It’s always important to ask ourselves about the reasons we do things.
As for me, mine are a little more personal…
Growing up in South London, I grew up in an area at a time where there was a lot of gang-related activity and violence, and a lot of people I went to school with were either involved in gang-related activity or on the road to getting there. I was smart enough to know not to get myself involved, but I still have memories of times I feared for my safety because of youth violence and gang activity around my home area and at school. I’ve also been unfortunate enough to know both my brothers had been stabbed due to gang-related issues, despite them never being part of it. Thankfully, they weren’t critically injured but it made me think: what if they were right in front of me and I couldn’t save them? How can young teens and adolescents be so clueless to the consequences of their actions and decisions? It was moments like this that strengthened my desire to not only become a doctor and help others, but also a means to escape from such a life and area.
When I found out about StreetDoctors, it wasn’t just an opportunity to give back. I saw a lot of myself in young people and my past in them, so I felt like I could easily relate to them and help them not only to understand the potential repercussions of their actions (from someone closer to their level), but also empower them to know they have the power to change their situation from something negative to something positive. They can become someone great, and not just another statistic. The greatest lesson I’ve learned is not to give up on the young. They are intelligent, hopeful and bright like we are…they just make the wrong decisions and hang with the wrong crowds. Everyone has the potential for greatness.
I’ve always been someone who desires to inspire a difference and make a change, and being a part of StreetDoctors has provided me with one of many avenues by which to achieve that. Being part of this charity is a privilege and an honour, but not one to be taken lightly. I’d say this is a key message to all volunteers, both old and new: remember why you’re joining StreetDoctors (or already part of it), make sure it’s for the right reasons, and especially to those who have been through similar or worse. Never forget where you’ve come from, so you can inspire a better future in others.
Gus Mensah (StreetDoctors Bristol volunteer and medical student at the University of Bristol)