"Abundance" worldwide is a non-profit organization working towards creating better lives for humans and caring for nature. Ruth Mumba is the Director of Abundance and here she speaks to the Co-Founder, Deepa Pullanikkatil about her journey, and dreams for Abundance.
Deepa: Could You tell me what inspires and excites you about Abundance?
Ruth: For me, stepping into Abundance was among the best things that happened to me. I have so much energy and I was at that point in my life where I asked myself what am I doing with my free time? I have time and have all these skills I have developed so I thought why not give back to society and volunteer?
I actually volunteered for the first time while in high -school, I remember we used to go to a small clinic in Blantyre to clean, although we weren’t getting any monetary gains from it, it felt good just helping out. Also, while in college I had the opportunity to volunteer with an organisation for three years until I finished college. When I started working it was difficult for me to find a place as most of the organisations think you want to get paid. But really you just want to give your time and help out in the best ways you could. In my search Abundance came by and it was a dream come true for me, I looked at my schedule and it was a perfect fit for me.
I have also been able to push a number of people to go into volunteering. I always tell people about the opportunities to learn great skills and you wouldn’t need to pay someone for these. I for one didn’t know about the different budgetary processes until I joined Abundance and for most people, they have had to go to a managerial school to learn those skills which I have been able to develop from talking with the people here and working on projects and that has been an amazing experience for me.
I think another amazing experience I have had with Abundance is when we started working with the University of Glasgow. Through Abundance’s connection with University of Glasgow, our colleague Stewart Paul is now employed in a project. It's just amazing, the positives. There’s a lot of negativity going on in the world and I get a lot of positive energy from Abundance which helps keep me going.
You inspire me too, Deepa, I know you do a lot of handwork in the background that we don’t see, like when you did the fellowship with the University of Glasgow. It got me thinking, and I found out that I love presenting my work and having people read about what I have done. I then thought why don’t I start applying for conferences? So, I said this year, I’m going to try! I have written and submitted a number of abstracts although some of the responses have not been positive but that one response that said “okay, we have accepted your abstract”, made me understand really that it can be done, if we just put a lot of background work in it, if we give it a push and a shove and put all our positive energy into it.
I have big dreams for Abundance mostly not for me, I want a lot of people to come and volunteer, but they should come with a selfless mindset. I for one have had a lot of people approach me and say we want to be volunteers and I ask them why do you want to be volunteers? I have ended up turning a couple of them back because they often want financial gratification for volunteering. I try to make them understand that by volunteering you are just coming to me with your time, what I give you after that, what I support you with after that is more like a surprise but don’t come to me with the hope of being remunerated. Because sometimes you work in the sun and you play with kids and they might be no monetary factors attached to that and if you are unable to overlook that and all you want is money, you are not going to be able to volunteer and it is just going to be a bad experience for the individual.
I want people to be selfless because we have so many skills, we are young and if just keep that time to yourself and not touch other people’s life you are just wasting your time and I think there is so much we can do with the limited time we have. I love to see the smiling faces of the people we work with. Its just the small things like going to the villages and teaching young girls and mothers how to make sanitary pads for example, when we are in town we don’t see the need because we have access to sanitary products but in the villages its hard, even to get painkillers for their cramps is hard so if we just make the period a bit easier a bit manageable. The skills that we give them will be used for themselves and for their children, That’s what drives me to do my best in my work, to go out and tell people about Abundance!
Deepa: Considering the whole ethos of working in only one village what is the most challenging encounter for you?
Ruth: The toughest part for me is the conflicts that arise, sometimes when you carry-out an intervention you expect a particular result, but it may turn out otherwise.
Personally, I believe working in one village is a good idea that way you can establish your roots in the community, you can’t touch everybody but the people who you touch you give an everlasting impression on them. I do hope that when we begin to move to other villages that the dependence ratio in Mbando village would have been reduced and that people would begin to use the skills they have been given to solve their problems.
Deepa: You spoke about some of your experiences which have motivated you to continue volunteering and have also mentioned some challenges encountered. With regards to volunteering with Abundance, what does the term Abundance really mean to you?
Ruth: Every time I think of Abundance, I perceive it to mean “plenty”. It’s difficult to sit back and quantify what this plenty means but you just feel this fullness, and this is what Abundance means to me. Once I was chatting with my sister about Abundance and she was like I have not met a lot of people in Abundance but whenever I get a chance to meet someone it's always an amazing experience. Its as if we have known each other for so long. It's difficult to point at but you feel a positive energy. It's like spreading the little you have. And helping people replicate what they have. That’s Abundance for me, that energy you cannot explain.
Deepa: What are your future dreams for Abundance?
Ruth: I have big dreams for Abundance, not only helping the villages but University graduates, School leavers etc. When I started working I noticed that there is a lot of things that are lacking in the way we learn. I have been trying to encourage my colleagues, we have been exposed, let's go to the school and teach these kids Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In the future, I hope we collaborate more with individuals, Universities and Communities to make more impact.