What being a UNICEF Volunteer means to me

Blog post by UNICEF Volunteer, Denise Van Heerden

Denise Van Heerden, UNICEF Volunteer
student-volunteers
UNICEF South Africa/2020/UWC Volunteers
04 August 2020

UNICEF’s humanitarian action under the COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the greatest level of motivation to deliver effective assistance. The COVID-19 lockdown has emphasised the gaps and insufficiencies in South Africa’s social welfare system and it has been encouraging to see UNICEF at the front line, addressing poverty, nutrition and health care.

Therefore, if anything, I am encouraged now more than ever to fulfil my purpose in communities by promoting social and environmental justice. People are not only faced with food insecurity, but a decline in clean and safe energy, education and health care. With the unacceptable levels of hunger before the lockdown, ensuring the human rights of children should be the core component of the disaster response.

Without energy, hospitals and schools operate under immense pressure and restrictions. Not only do we need to shed light on challenges that ought to be addressed, we need to ensure South Africa keep their lights on without risking the needs of future generations. Sustainability is the future; sustainability is life.

UNICEF SA has not only granted me the privilege to extend my social and environmental impact, it has provided me with the platform to expand the vision of my project through the United Nations (UN) Millennium Fellowship. This fellowship celebrates student leadership for the UN goals on campuses worldwide. Students all over the world are selected based on their innovative and making the United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) principles a reality on campuses and communities. This initiative works closely with the Millennium Campus Network (MCN) and UNICEF to empower and encourage university students to make a positive impact. I therefore encourage the youth to apply for this fellowship and the UNICEF Volunteer Programme.

student-volunteer
Denise Van Heerden

Being a UNICEF Volunteer has helped develop my skills to make a difference and implement lasting solutions. The UN Millennium Fellowship will encourage me to take my project further and help take my country where I wish to see it in the next 20 years.

Denise Van Heerden, UNICEF Volunteer

The energy crisis in South Africa and the air pollution we promote mainly through the production and manufacturing sector has been the driving force behind my project. Fighting for freedom and justice would be futile if we do not have the environment to live in. We may be geographically at the bottom, but we may be sustainably at the top. Being a UNICEF Volunteer has helped develop my skills to make a difference and implement lasting solutions. The UN Millennium Fellowship will encourage me to take my project further and help take my country where I wish to see it in the next 20 years.

I owe my deepest gratitude and sincerest thanks to UNICEF SA, the UN Academic Impact Millennium Fellowship and the MCN partners. UNICEF’S response under the COVID-19 pandemic encouraged me to continue striving for transformation in my country and has stimulated my personal growth.