A year with UNICEF volunteers

In Kazakhstan, UNICEF has engaged over 9,000 young people as volunteers reaching 98,000 school children

photo of a young UNICEF volunteer
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Sula Anarbekov
06 May 2021

In 2020, UNICEF started its first programme to engage young people as volunteers to support children and communities in Kazakhstan. As of April 2021, over 9,000 young volunteers have been mobilized by UNICEF to conduct online and face-to-face lessons to prevent bullying in schools, use less plastic, address COVID-19 misinformation and promote mental well-being, inclusivity and children’s rights. 

As a result, young UNICEF volunteers have engaged more than 98,000 schoolchildren and 7,200 parents and created over 4,000 social media posts reaching over 800,000 online users. 

Above: Kaleshova Ainur (22 years old) from Shymkent city was one of the first UNICEF volunteers in Kazakhstan. March 2020, Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan 

Drawings of UNICEF volunteer
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/ Eleanor Zeitlin

This initiative started with a co-creation workshop in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, to design a volunteer engagement programme jointly with young people, including volunteers, civil society organizations, academia as well as national and local government counterparts. The participants worked together to explore the critical issues faced by children and collaboratively developed possible solutions to meaningfully engage volunteers in Kazakhstan to advance child rights.

photo of a volunteer in a team building event
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/ Eleanor Zeitlin

At the workshop, prevention of bullying and reduction on usage of plastic among school children were prioritized as key thematic areas to pilot the volunteering initiative. In March 2020, jointly with the National Network of Volunteers, UNICEF trained the first 100 volunteers to roll out Be Kind and Plastic Free Kazakhstan programmes. 

To create a safer school environment, young volunteers of BeKind programme conducted 117 lessons for 2,000 children and 1,500 parents in 38 schools in four regions explaining how to prevent bullying and cyberbullying, how to address it and where to seek support in such situations. 

drawing of a volunteer
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/ Eleanor Zeitlin

To build and promote eco-friendly practices and behaviour, UNICEF trained young volunteers to apply peer-to-peer approach and share with younger children their knowledge and information on plastic pollution and broader climate and environmental issues, while encouraging life-long eco-friendly practices. Children from 7 to 10 years old were engaged by the volunteers in 30-minute sessions with interactive games and educational activities tailored to the local context. After the classes, children were also tasked to develop a monthly eco plan with their families and measure how much plastic they have avoided using. Following a 10-school pilot in one region, the programme has expanded to more than 100 schools countrywide engaging with 9,094 children.

photo of UNICEF volunteer, Zharkymbaeva Kalamkas
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Valeriy Kaliyev

The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant impact on the mental health of adolescents and young people worldwide, including Kazakhstan. Kalamkas, 16, from a remote Aksuat village in East-Kazakhstan region was so determined to support her community. As a UNICEF volunteer, she helps other young people in the village to learn how to take care of their mental health and recognize COVID-19 misinformation online.

UNICEF volunteer, Zharkimbayeva Kalamkas, playing basketball with her family
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Valeriy Kaliyev

Kalamkas, 16, UNICEF volunteer, playing basketball with her family during the lockdown, Aksuat village in East-Kazakhstan region.

UNICEF volunteer Arailym doing her homework
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Zhanara Karimova

To address the impact of COVID-19 lockdown, UNICEF Kazakhstan launched an online volunteering programme #ПайдасыБарКарантин (Useful Quarantine) motivating young people – keen to invest their time, talents, and positive spirits to support their peers across the country. Arai, 17, was one of UNICEF online volunteers in #ПайдасыБарКарантин programme, who joined to raise awareness about COVID-19 and promote mental health and well-being among her peers and the public at large. Arai published social media posts explaining to her peers how to protect yourself from the COVID-19 and resist stress during the pandemic. 

photo of Lina
Lina's private archive

“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.”

school girl studying
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Valeriy Kaliyev

The UNICEF Kazakhstan volunteer programme was scaled up and the thematic areas expanded, with more young people trained to increase the knowledge on disaster risk reduction and emergency behaviour among children and youth, as well as promoting child rights and an inclusive society. 

In 2021, in the framework of the GenU initiative, UNICEF Kazakhstan has engaged more volunteers who have been trained to improve their skills in CV writing, job interviews, job search strategies, as well as essential soft skills needed for their future career. In April–May 2021, they have been reaching out to their peers, especially in remote areas, to share knowledge with their peers as well as organizing webinars and face-to-face sessions.

photo of Veronika Vashenko with a UNICEF volunteer
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Sula Anarbekov

“In Kazakhstan, thousands of volunteers gave their energy and time to support children and communities. Engagement of volunteers is a key programme strategy for UNICEF Kazakhstan to deliver the results for children on a range of areas from health, education, child protection and beyond. Joining efforts with young people, we are tapping into their power and commitment to change the world for better,” said Veronika Vashchenko, UNICEF Deputy Representative in Kazakhstan. 

two school children showing a love sign
UNICEF Kazakhstan/2020/Valeriy Kaliyev

To achieve our ambitious goals for children, UNICEF Kazakhstan plans to scale up the volunteering programme to create opportunities for young people to learn new skills, contribute their ideas and help others.