Volunteering as a career move

Gaining by giving

Shuhratjon Sharipov
Nigora standing in front of the tree
UNICEF Tajikistan/ 2019/ S. Sharipov
07 August 2019
Nigora Valikhodjaeva from Dushanbe, Tajikistan is 21 y.o and a proud volunteer. She studies law at the Tajik-Russian (Slavonic) University. Nigora is motivated by sharing information, experiences and helping young people educate themselves.

How did I get there?

When I first entered the world of volunteerism I faced difficulties, as my peers perceived ‘volunteerism’ as a useless and non-profitable experience. I used to be questioned “Why do you need this? Don’t you get paid? You're doing someone’s job, you’re being used." Meanwhile I started taking part in trainings and different events. I barely spent time at home and my parents were unhappy with it.

But during those training, for the very first time, I learned about HIV/AIDS, contraceptive methods and reproductive health. I wondered, "Why didn't anyone tell me about these things before?”.And the answer to this question is the main reason why organizations like Y-peer, the organization where I volunteer, operates in the Tajikistan.

It was both productive and interesting to discuss these important issues with my peers - issues I would not have been able to discuss with my own parents.

I quickly realized, that I am not the only one lacked information, and this only strengthened my commitment to become a peer educator for other young people who could also benefit from learning about these issues. The volunteers at Y-peer began conducting trainings for young people about HIV/AIDS in schools and colleges in our city.

By providing training in remote areas of our country, I witnessed how access to information boosts one’s self-confidence and inspires them to desire even more knowledge. I’ve met a lot young people, who have never discussed important topics like HIV/AIDS, reproductive health, contraception, gender with each other, or with their parents, making them vulnerable to some of the risks associated with their well being. It was also inspiring to discuss other important topics like equality for girls and leadership in areas where girls are not given a voice.

Together with Y-Peer team in social hackathon on “Women and HIV”
Together with Y-Peer team in social hackathon on “Women and HIV”

Another advantage of the volunteerism is an opportunity to attend and learn at high-level events. These events provide an opportunity to meet interesting people, including experts who can share valuable advice including career advice. UNICEF Tajikistan is frequently offering us such an opportunity by inviting us to help with organization of event, while giving opportunities for our volunteers to meet important people, champions and influencers, members of different organizations.

During one of the events, I got to know more about the UPSHIFT program - a platform where young people design solutions to resolve social issues such as access to water, sanitation and hygiene, education, health and youth employment. Currently the UPSHIFT program is well-recognized by the public in Tajikistan. I plan to enter the program once I graduate from the university.

In 2018, I was fortunate to be selected by UNICEF Tajikistan to attend the Global Conference on Primary Health Care, held in Astana. And this is thanks to volunteering, otherwise I wouldn’t have an opportunity to let others know about me. My friend Anush and I represented the youth of our country at the conference. I consider this trip as a big step forward for my experience and professional development.

It was the first time I met so many young people from all over the world. I learned a lot and met new the experience expanded my worldview.

As a youth delegate from Tajikistan, participating in Global PHC Conference in Astana, 2018.
PHC Conference
As a youth delegate from Tajikistan, participating in Global PHC Conference in Astana, 2018.

I would like to confess, that I was initially attracted to volunteering because of the many opportunities such as different events, training, meeting new people and travel. However, the most precious thing that I have gained through volunteering are friends and work experience.

Today I’m part of an amazing team actively promoting better health to young people in Tajikistan, and we help NGOs that work with children with disabilities. That is why I want all young people in my community to gain such an experience.

I’m glad to see that volunteerism is becoming more mainstream in our society. I can see that more volunteers are working on issues that are important to society – activities like community outreach, participation, youth engagement and development, peer to peer support. Well regarding myself, I'm not going to stop, I will continue to develop myself and develop our society.

In Tajikistan we have definitely demonstrated that volunteerism is cool.