From needing help to helping others

YMCA Tolima, in Colombia, has developed several activities through its “Mental Health Voluntary Service”. For instance it  launched the Psychological First Aid Course, and Healthy Lifestyles Programme. This course came up as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions in physical and psychological health. It was designed by YMCA young leaders and counselors.

When Covid-19 hits hard

Loriana Velasco, 28, was in charge of the first lecture on “Self-esteem and healthy habits.” She shares: “This experience was amazing because it took me out of my comfort zone.  I did not want to share only theory and information, but my own life experience. At this point, I must confess that before the Covid-19 pandemic, my lifestyle was so bustling. I had so many things to do, so many activities in my schedule. I was used to working, studying, and having a social life. That is the reason why quarantine was a big shock for me. I felt as if, all of a sudden, my life and productivity had been stopped. My plans were cut short. Being apart from my loved ones was very hard for me. My family and I were stressed, in general”.

 “You shine more when you make others shine”

Instead of focusing on her own problems, Loriana decided to speak out and to reach out to those who were faced with the same difficulties: “My participation in the Mental Health Volunteering Service helped me a lot in dealing with all my own struggles. Thanks to that, I could keep my mind focused. Also, I had the opportunity to learn from amazing people, to make relationships with new people, to share my knowledge, to learn about myself, and to connect with my world. Once I realized I had started to adapt myself to the new reality, I started to feel better. Then, I decided to help others. When I did that, everything in my life started to transform and grow. My favorite person used to say, “You shine more when you make others shine” and that was my great learning from this experience as a volunteer at YMCA Tolima.”

Like Loriana, many YMCA young people worldwide stepped out and found the inner resources to raise their concerns and to support each other. “Being a volunteer taught me so much more than  I could have learned on my own”, concludes Loriana. “So I would like to invite every young person to take advantage of every opportunity that pops up to be a volunteer, and to serve others through your knowledge”.

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