In Laudato Si, the Holy Father acknowledges that, “young people have a new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit, and some of them are making admirable efforts to protect the environment” (209). Whereas the modus operandi for manifesting this “new ecological sensitivity and a generous spirit” does not feature explicitly in the encyclical, the young people committing their time and resources to the mission of the Catholic Youth Network for Environmental Sustainability In Africa (CYNESA) constitute an explicit depiction of this generous spirit.
From different educational backgrounds, tribes, tongues, locations, nations, and regions, the CYNESA family pursues divine rewards on caring for our common home. Without any form of incentive, save for the knowledge that care for creation is deeply enshrined and emphasised in the Catholic Social Teachings, CYNESA has become a haven of ideas and actions by young people that are worth emulating. The solutions’ base that CYNESA presents with is purely voluntary and has been so since the birth of the organisation.
Granted the challenges there are in volunteerism, the uniqueness of the team working at and with CYNESA is evident in the level of consistency that is mainly traceable to friendship bonds that the daily engagements continue to cement daily through virtual and 101 engagements. Besides the renowned volatile nature of young people across the world, the CYNESA family keeps tabs through the equally dynamic engagement platforms and particularly technology-based social networking. Needless to say, tasks at CYNESA are only assumed and executed with the best interest at heart and for the good of the entire planet.
Modelling on the volunteerism exhibited at CYNESA, picture a world that has people committing their resources, whether monetary or otherwise, to care for our common home. It would mean that we might never have to look forward to another encyclical that describes what we ought to be doing to protect and heal a breaking, if not broken, earth. It also implies that Catholics would be at the forefront to tackle issues head-on based on their faith. It hints at a win in safeguarding against “The loss of forests and woodlands [,which] entails the loss of species which may constitute extremely important resources in the future, not only for food but also for curing disease and other uses” (Laudato Si 32).
The voluntary service offered by the CYNESA team is a reflection of what young people in an African context could champion caring for creation without counting the cost or looking at capitalist returns. It mirrors the Holy Father’s sentiments in Laudato Si, “Caring for ecosystems demands far-sightedness, since no one looking for quick and easy profit is truly interested in their preservation. But the cost of the damage caused by such selfish lack of concern is much greater than the economic benefits to be obtained” (36). In committing economic benefits obtained elsewhere towards works that reinstate the glory of our planet, volunteers in their different capacities are likely to challenge the ever-biting, ever-munching, ever-swallowing, and never-spitting selfishness that dominantly suppresses good will and tarnishes anything that accrues no direct material profits.
From a practical, experiential perspective, it appears that most initiatives that attempt to reverse or mitigate the impact of climate change end up with attaching a value (often monetary) to the course and cause. Consider the recently hailed Intended National Determined Contribution (INDC) submissions. Most countries, including mine (Kenya), conclude by indicating the amount required to implement the submissions. Yet, INDCs are voluntary. This begs the question, who is volunteering in the case of INDCs? This query roots in the understanding that “Volunteerism is a form of prosocial behaviour that involves a freely chosen decision to commit
a sustained amount of time and effort to helping another person, group, or cause, typically through
a nonprofit organization” (Stukas, Snyder, & Clary, 2015, p.459). Perhaps an approach such as CYNESA’s is more worthwhile and rewarding since the giving without expecting tangible returns (especially monetary) is devoid of conflicted interests. Monetary resources are only to propel the good will of an idea; centring on money often derodes the meaning of the cause in most instances.
Praise be to you, My Lord.
 Stukas, A A., Snyder, M., & Clary, E. G. (2015). Volunteerism and community involvement: Antecedents, experiences, and consequences for the person and the situation. In D. A. Schroeder & W. Graziano (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of prosocial behavior (pp. 459-493). New York: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/oxfordhb/9780195399813.013.012
David N. Munene,
Programs Manager, CYNESA.