UNICEF online volunteers in Kazakhstan support young people during COVID-19
Sharing their time, talents and positive spirits
Lina, age 14, lives in Almaty, the biggest city in Kazakhstan. For Arman, age 19, home is the village of Karasu in the western part of the country. What they have in common is a desire to become online volunteers for UNICEF.
In April 2020, UNICEF together with the National Volunteer Network launched an online volunteering programme #ПайдасыБарКарантин (HealthyAtHome) in Kazakhstan. The initiative, which started with only 200 people, has so far drawn around 1,500 motivated young people – keen to invest their time, talents and positive spirits to support other young people across the country. The USAID also provides support to this online volunteering initiative, which proved to be very effective to communicate key messages during COVID-19. Both during the quarantine and post-quarantine periods, the young volunteers have worked to raise awareness about COVID-19 through on-line platforms and increase community engagement around important social messages at the local level.
"As a UNICEF volunteer, I got a lot more than I was hoping for”
“I can say with confidence that as a UNICEF volunteer, I got a lot more than I was hoping for” says Lina, for whom the work with UNICEF was her first volunteering experience. “My original goal was just to deliver messages on COVID-19. However, UNICEF not only helped me to understand COVID-19 and its impact on children, but also other socially important issues and ideas as well as equipped us with necessary skills and knowledge to deliver them. I am really happy to know that my contribution is valuable, and I can make an impact in our society.”
Having reached 500,000 people, the UNICEF Volunteers have helped to provide information in a number of areas, including mental health support during quarantine, ending violence against children, and on-line learning. The young volunteers, very importantly, have also helped to bring UNICEF even closer to the people of Kazakhstan.
“During my journey with UNICEF, I found many ways to contact people in my village, whether it is through social networks or any other messengers and phone calls to my peers.”
“I grew up in a small village, where some people do not have access to Internet or have poor connection, so there is a risk that little information reaches them,” says Arman. “During my journey with UNICEF, I found many ways to contact people in my village, whether it is through social networks or any other messengers and phone calls to my peers.”
As part of the programme, volunteers attend weekly training webinars on various topics including the importance of distinguishing fact from fiction about the coronavirus and strengthening participants’ digital media skills. Volunteers regularly publish posts on social media networks using the information and materials provided by UNICEF.
Both Lina and Arman say that the online volunteering programme has helped them to use their time during quarantine effectively, and that they, in turn, have helped their friends and family to stay informed. Their classmates and friends say that Lina and Arman helped them realise that staying positive and being kind to each other during these times is as important as taking appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of disease.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has changed lives around the world. With school closures and cancelled events, many young people are missing out on some of the biggest moments of their lives. In Kazakhstan alone, 2.5 million children were unable to attend schools,” says UNICEF Representative in Kazakhstan Arthur van Diesen. “We are very glad that young people around Kazakhstan have decided to volunteer for UNICEF. They are helping us to speak the language of youth and to share critical information in an understandable and appropriate format for them. I have been truly impressed and inspired by these young volunteers’ creativity, involvement and determination to contribute to the fight against COVID-19 without leaving home.”
UNICEF considers volunteering an important strategy to create opportunities for young people to learn new skills, realize their ideas and help others. The UNICEF Kazakhstan team hopes that this programme will inspire others to volunteer and spread kindness. It is appropriate that this initiative is happening in 2020, which is the year of volunteering in Kazakhstan. The initiative has shown that through volunteers, we can multiply our impact, which is incredibly important in the challenging year that 2020 is turning out to be.