By Mafany Tande Myles Bilong
With a drive to promote volunteerism and youth empowerment, Lyonga launched the Noela Lyonga Foundation on October 22nd, 2016. Under the theme “I am a volunteer,” the foundation encourages unemployed youths to develop an interest in volunteerism so as to gain professional experience and the needed exposure.
Noela Mwindo "Mwalimu" Lyonga was born and bred in the South West Region of Cameroon. She graduated from the University of Buea with a degree in History. Her passion and commitment to community development were so profound that the United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to Cameroon acknowledged her services to the community and to mankind through an award.
The Noela Lyonga Foundation has as one of its aims to implant in youths, the importance of volunteerism, inspiring them in any little way as volunteers. Her principal program within the foundation is dubbed “Inspire an Inmate.” Through the program, Noela has led training workshops for over 100 young and female prisoners to support their economic reintegration into society when they leave prison. Using sports, music and art as tools for engagement, she has also helped over 380 young people to start their own volunteering projects.
She has been running this program under the umbrella of her foundation for a while now, and the impact she is making has been felt nationwide. Aside from the prison project, Noela, under her foundation has carried out a number of compassion missions to orphanages. During such missions, she rallies some volunteers who help to engage in interactive sessions with the orphans, present educational and motivational talks and make donations.
Such an initiative can face some challenges, however. It hasn't always been easy for her to recruit volunteers. The community Noela finds herself in is full of youths who are mainly after addressing their own needs and concerns, which is not bad altogether. Volunteers are not always easy to find as the majority demand payment or some form of incentive. This has been a challenge for Noela and the foundation as a whole, but she made her message clear.
She clearly emphasises on the benefits of volunteering wherever she goes and this has echoed in the minds of some youths who have begun projects of their own elsewhere within and beyond Cameroon. "Whenever you volunteer, whether a skill, lend a hand or whatever, a part of you remains with the person you touched or with the life you turn around; and this part of you will go many places to change the world for the better." Noela carries these words along with her wherever and uses this to motivate and inspire others.
Although the organization has notable partners such as the Nigerian Consulate in Cameroon, Noela prides herself in the volunteers that make up the foundation. They are her strength. Noela believes that, with volunteerism, one can obtain skills, build networks for future jobs, gain experience in a completely new field, build self-esteem and even further one’s education through a scholarship. Moreover, as a community-based organization, there is a need for a sustainable relationship and collaboration with the community. She wants to inspire youths who expect returns for volunteerism to think differently and spark change within their communities.