5 December 2011: International Volunteer day
09 December 2011 - On this year's International Volunteer Day (IVD), celebrated on 5 December, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme recognizes the efforts of UNICEF and other partners.
Internationally acclaimed singer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, Angélique Kidjo, joined forces with UNV to be a part of our IVD campaign. When she is not wowing audiences with her music she is often volunteering to help UNICEF advocate for children. “Volunteering matters to me because there are many things all of us can do every day to help others,” she said.
On this Universal Children’s Day, we invite you to meet some of the UN Volunteers working with UNICEF to provide their expertise and support to the organization in carrying out its work:
Masala Boly, UN Volunteer with UNICEF in Burundi
Masala Boly first served the needs of children as a volunteer in an orphanage in Mexico, before advocating on their behalf as a UN Volunteer for UNICEF in Burundi.
After a short period of training in the capital Bujumbura, she was assigned to Gitega, a provincial town in the middle of the country, where violation of children’s rights is rife.
A few days later Masala was sent on mission to Ngozi and Kayanza in Northern Burundi to monitor the process of harmonizing child protection standards for community-based Child Protection Committees (CPCs), a local initiative supported by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and community members to ensure the respect of rights for children at community level.
Masala and her colleagues observed the election of CPC members who act on a voluntary basis by assessing morality and commitment to the cause of children’s rights.
The UN Volunteer is aware of the complexity of child protection work; however the field mission left positive insights in her:
“Keeping in the background as a discreet bystander, with fascination and happiness I observed how women and men from the community discussed, argued and organized what is essentially the lynchpin of the child protection system being built in Burundi. Watching these women and men, mostly farmers, engaging in the meeting and welcoming the new CPC members with cries of joy, I applaud such devotion to the cause of children’s rights.”
Antoine Deliege, UN Volunteer with UNICEF in Rwanda
For UN Volunteer Antoine Deliége (Belgium), his assignment at UNICEF in Rwanda is literally child’s play. Working closely with Right To Play International, a non-governmental organization (NGO), Antoine implements a UNICEF-funded project to ensure that many Rwandan children and youth will have the opportunity to play.
The project is based on Sports for Development, a concept which uses sport to achieve specific development objectives, like the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Sport is also considered a powerful engine to fulfill the rights of children.
Play and sport contribute to healthy child development, from building self-esteem and life skills to teaching important life lessons about respect, cooperation, resilience and leadership. It can mobilize communities, and foster peace and tolerance.
Antoine believes children need more than food and vaccinations but hopes and dreams as well. He seeks out the cooperation of local youth-friendly centres and trains local volunteers in the art of coaching. He then teaches these new coaches how to get great games going with boys and girls and only the simplest of available means. Additionally, they are taught disabled youngsters can join in and gain from games and play.
“When I give a ball to a child, I know I can change that child’s life for the better.” says Antoine. “Play and sport help all children, including the poorest and most marginalized, to have fun and enjoy their childhood. The impact of sport on children is just magic!”
Harriet Christine Elasu, UN Volunteer with UNICEF Uganda
As a UN Volunteer, Harriet supports UNICEF in Uganda by conducting financial spot checks and providing capacity development for implementing partners, both within government institutions and non-governmental organizations. The checks are to ascertain whether the resources UNICEF channels through partners are being properly put to their intended use; to ensure that children and mothers benefit accordingly.
Harriet has had several challenges as a volunteer, which translate into valuable lessons for the future.
In one instance, Harriet worked with a partner that was still so new that they did not have adequate office space to accommodate everybody. Consequently, the volunteer worked with the finance and accounting staff members under a tree, which served as their office.
As a volunteer Harriet has learned to be more patient with implementing partners and has strengthened her communication skills. She is always happy to provide extra support and guidance where it is needed, particularly in the areas of accounting and financial management, and in proper record-keeping.
“For me, volunteering with UNICEF is such a tremendous opportunity that has changed me. The volunteering spirit is an enabling factor and will remain a memorable life-experience for me for a long, long time,” states Harriet.
Daisy Serem, UN Volunteer with UNICEF Kenya
Daisy’s role as an Assistant Communication Officer in the Advocacy and Partnerships Section requires regular field trips to UNICEF programme sites to highlight the work done in ensuring every child receives proper nutrition and health services, clean water and sanitation facilities, and an adequate level of care and protection. By interacting with those in the local communities Daisy is able to identify what more needs to be done.
In Dadaab camp, refugees are fleeing famine and conflict in neighboring Somalia and are desperately looking for a place to raise healthy and happy children. Local communities in Kenya are also not spared from the drought. Daisy’s volunteer assignment reveals not only the devastation of livelihoods caused by such natural disasters but also the various life-saving interventions by UNICEF and partner agencies that offer hope to families.
“It is inspiring to be able to engage with communities and understand the challenges they are facing. This is a motivating factor for any volunteer desiring to make a difference in the lives of those who need it most. To me it is indeed the very essence of my role as a volunteer,” states Daisy.
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