By Anette Selmer-Andresen, IFRC

Challenging situations can also mean a fresh start. For 28-year-old Genghis Khan from Kyrgyzstan the COVID-19 pandemic changed his whole life.

“The crisis forced me out of my comfort zone and gave me a chance to change. I am grateful for such an opportunity, because my life will never be the same,” says Genghis Khan, now an avid Red Crescent volunteer.

Living a Groundhog Day

“Before the pandemic, each day of my life was like the other. You could say that I lived a Groundhog Day for the last five years,” he explains.

Genghis was working as a banker, but was not happy with his life. “Many times, I promised myself that I would change my life. I thought that I would only work for another year, and then look for a new job. But time flew by and before I knew it, I had been a bank employee for five years.”

Discovering volunteering

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government of Kyrgyzstan declared a state of emergency at the end of March. All office workers needed to work remotely and Genghis was isolated at home.

“Honestly, in the beginning I was lost,” he says. “What should I do with all this free time?”

One day, while browsing the internet, he came across an ad by the Red Crescent Society of Kyrgyzstan. They were looking for volunteers to help with COVID-19 preventive activities.

“I’d never done anything like that before and I didn’t understand why volunteering was necessary.” Still, Genghis decided to give it a try.

As soon as he began volunteering, Genghis was impressed by the atmosphere of solidarity among the volunteers.

“It felt almost like we were a family. I was impressed by the courage of the volunteers. They gave their time and put their health in danger to help those in need.”

A life-changing experience

Volunteering for the Red Crescent has been an eye-opener for Genghis. He realized that there are vulnerable people in his community who need help.

“To be honest, being able to help old and lonely people or single mothers with many children, brought tears to my eyes,” he admits.

Through volunteering, Genghis has learned some important life lessons and feels that he has changed as a person.

“My life will not be the same again. Before I was in some way selfish and cared only about myself. Now everything is different, I realized how important it is to help others. I love this organization with all my heart.”