I'm a 19 year old boy who is still a student. I was an interactor and that's where I started commiting my money, time and my knowledge for social services. I happened to like it much. I gradually began to feel rather than having a fun time with a bunch of my friends spending a huge load of money at a time, it's much nicer and a much solid fun in a way if we could make smile on someone who finds it so hard to live. I'm much passionate about volunteering. I volunteered at the International Youth Day 2012 celebrations in Sri Lanka and formed a group in it called "the pledge committee" and we did 25 pledge projects within 90 days after the Youth Day. We went volunteering at adults' homes, childrens' homes, orphanages and so many other places where it's need some what help. We went and painted, cleaned up, spent time with orphans and disabled ones and did so many more, volunteering at so many places like I mentioned above. I'm so inspired with them and I'm so happy to volunteer more and more to keep these lonely people happy.
From dark to light
VSO volunteering journey in Cameroon
Participation & Governance
Continuous work. Challenges faced. Successes achieved. I have my plane ticket in hand – the plane ticket that would whisk me back to India and away from the Ndu Council where we had spent the last two years working together to move towards the bright future and development. Looking back at my time here as an Institutional Development Advisor with VSO Cameroon, I realize that, yes, I had to go. After all, I had accomplished my work. However, the picture was entirely different, much darker, when I first arrived. My journey started two years back, at the airport in India on October 13, 2008. Arriving in Yaoundé late in the evening, the Cameroonian capital’s airport offered a frightening first impression where random security personnel asked for spare dollars. Luckily I spotted VSO’s placard beckoning to me from across the room. Momentarily relieved, I went to retrieve my luggage only to find that only one piece had arrived. The bad news: I would have to manage with one dress for the week it would take to usher the remainder from their resting place in Nairobi. Having barely arrived, I immediately launched into a brief In Country Training in Yaoundé and then departed on the next stage of my journey – to Bamenda with Ibrahim, VSO Cameroon’s Participation and Governance Programme Manager. Waiting for my partner from Ndu Council turned into a much-needed recovery week at the Baptist Rest House. One fine morning a lady came to collect me and inserted me into my first public Cameroonian public transportation for an hours-long journey over horrible roads fraught with many ups and downs. My first sight of Ndu was, fittingly, of darkness. Excited to see where I would spend two years living, working, and navigating a new culture and language, I saw little. Arriving at 7:30pm, a delegation from the Council took me directly to their rest house that was supposed to be my home for the next two years. That was not to be as a resident drunk man put my security at risk. After a few pleas, the Council found me another house to rent and I settled in at last. My first meetings to discuss VSO Cameroon’s Institutional Development (ID) process with the Council’s executive revealed a troubled state of affairs. Councilors were not happy with the Mayor and even less excited about my plans to visit each village in the area. Things grew worse as I realized that anger and hatred raged through the veins of Councilors who targeted the Mayor for removal from office. In fact, only 9 out of 41 Councilors still supported the Mayor and this opposition came largely from within the Mayor’s own political party. As a result, they rejected any proposals put before the Council and even refused to approve a budget. Starting my work in this scattered condition, my challenge became to figure out a way to change this state of affairs and move forward with the agenda of institutional capacity building. I piqued Councilors’ interest by talking with them about how VSO was looking to strengthen their council’s ability to deliver quality basic services to community members. I explained that by emphasizing transparency, accountability and participation, we would move development in the area forward, from a dark state into the light. Over the next three weeks I visited each village in the area and then developed plans to carry out workshops on Institutional Development in early February 2009. The Mayor and I together sent invitation letters to all Councilors, the Village Development Associations, and different groups of influential elites, NGOs and Common Interest Groups (CIGs). The morning of the workshop arrived and I had no idea whether the Councilors would even show up. To my surprise everyone arrived! This proved the first time they had all assembled since the elections over a year earlier! Apparently, my signature on the invitation– as a VSO volunteer – helped bridge the gap and give confidence to participants that change might come to the Council. VSO’s status as an international organization focusing on good governance really made a difference. In the end, 74 people participated and those gathered chose the main opposition leader – Mr S.K. Umarou - to chair the TAP (Transparency, Accountability & Participation) committee that would drive forward the Institutional Development process and bring plans for change to the Council. After this first success, I worked side-by-side with the different members of the TAP committee to carry out a series of interviews with stakeholders and conduct reviews of the Councils documents and IT resources. As we moved forward I still had to be particularly careful to avoid making the situation of disunity worse, so I tried to include members from each camp. The Mayor, unfortunately, remained doubtful about the process and was not very open with me. This meant I struggled to complete the process and build the capacities of the Council to deliver improved basic services. However, the community really pushed for the process to move forward. Throughout the interview phases, they relished the opportunity to be involved and, for the first time, saw the council coming to them for their views on issues affecting the community’s development. They realized that they – as tax payers - had the right to influence and speak out about the council’s work and to review the council budget, income and expenditures. I used the interest of community members to help push forward changes in the Council and convince Councilors to suspend their animosity and work for development of their community. When the Council twice refused to adopt a budget, I approached the councilors and stressed that VSO brought volunteers from far away to work with them in order to help them deliver basic services to residents, especially to disadvantaged groups. I also reminded them that community members elected them to office and they would be very disappointed if movement on their issues did not occur. “If nothing is accomplished for the community’s development, how will you be able to present yourself to the people when the next election happens?”, I asked. Facing strong demand from community members, Councilors gradually began showing interest in working for development in the community. To the astonished happiness of residents, the Councilors reconciled themselves in November 2009. In Council sessions they approved accounts they had previously rejected and the Mayor began delegating decision making power and responsibilities to the deputy mayors and standing committees. This fundamental change in the way the Council operated – a key component of VSO Cameroon’s ID process - increased Councilors’ motivation to monitor effective use of budgetary resources. This, in turn, made residents very happy. The TAP committee and I continued interviewing citizens and analyzing the data we collected. Concluding workshops saw everyone working together to develop action plans for the upcoming year as well as the next five. They even adopted a new vision for Ndu Council that squarely focused on development for all: To cope with the changing time, Ndu Council works to improve the standard of living of the population of Ndu sub-division in social, cultural, economic & political domains reflecting transparency, accountability and participation. Looking back two years later, the Council, VSO and I worked together to realize change. We changed not only the situation of a council in crisis, but also brought citizens closer to their local government. Change, however, was not limited to Ndu Council. By confronting this long struggle, I too changed. At first I felt very uncomfortable when confronted with discord and in charged situations. I have become bolder and am now ready to face any challenge in the future. This change in my personality is a gift I will take from Ndu. In the end, I realize that, yes, the last two years saw me accomplish my work. However, what I will never forget is the love and respect the community showed me. As I start my journey back to India, I realize just how hard it is hard to say goodbye.
Nili Majumder,VSO Volunteer
6th November 2012
Our experience working as National UNVs in the UNHCR-Dominican Republic campaign “Living together with Tolerance!”
By José Manuel Vicente and Eykis García
Since joining the UNHCR office in the Dominican Republic as National UNVs, we had the opportunity to participate in all the activities related to the launch of the public Campaign to promote tolerance, co-existence and human rights among the various ethnic, religious and social groups in the Dominican Republic. The Campaign is designed to cover a series of human rights issues including discrimination against victims of HIV and AIDS, gender violence, cultural links and nationality, among others. It was launched through the “Voices of an Island” music concert on December 9, 2011, in the Historical Center (Colonial) City of Santo Domingo, with the participation of Dominican and Haitian musicians, to mark International Day of Human Rights. The campaign is set to last for a period of 18 months, and is organized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the Dominican Republic with the financing of the European Union and the support of the Ministry of Culture and the private sector.
1. The activities are being held in the capital Santo Domingo, as well as in important cities such as Santiago, in both urban as well as rural settings, including marginalized sugar cane field villages known locally as bateyes. These are some of the most important events held since the launch of the Campaign: The creation of a Network of community communicators for the production of radio programs promoting human rights, co-existence and tolerance.
1. The concert “Voices of an Island”.
2. A photography contest on Tolerance and Co-existence where young adolescents from the bateyes were able to capture daily life and the many struggles and hardships they face in their marginalized communities, but also the positive relationship that exists between the Dominican populations there and those of Haitian origin. The pictures from this competition, together with others taken by professional photographers, were subsequently show in an exhibition called “Voices from the Batey” was held in Santo Domingo’s Blue Mall.
3. A Street theater workshop and plays, carried out by actors and young people from the sugar cane field villages.
4. A campaign of videos, recorded by famous Dominican personalities, including a renowned journalist, a business leader, Miss Dominican Republic 2011, a TV star and an Olympic young sports figure, promoting the concepts of tolerance, co-existence, respect for cultural diversity, etc.
5. A concert entitled “Immigrant Voices in the Dominican Republic”. It was held in the Santo Domingo National Theater on April 27, 2012 with the participation of several musicians who are immigrants in the Dominican Republic and are residents in the country, including artists from Serbia, Haiti, Cuba, Argentina, Brazil, Bulgary, France and Peru.
6. A concert entitled “Voices and colours of Dominican Republic” held in Santiago on 20 September, where some ten Dominican artists took part, and which promoted the issue of cultural diversity.
And 7. A forum of Haitian and Dominican students held at the well-known Catholic University in Santiago, la Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM), on 21 September 2012. In the year that we have been working in these issues, we have noticed that through culture, music, social dialogue and tolerance we can begin to bridge differences and create processes of integration between isolated communities and other populations within the Dominican Republic. There are incredible persons in the bateyes and it is our duty to continue working on improving their living conditions and their integration into society through the important work of UNHCR. ``There is no great talent, without great will power``. Honoré de Balzac
While in my undergraduate studies, I joined associations that enabled me give back to the society around the university. We used to arrange for charity events whereby we go visit the orphanages or collect material things like sanitary towels and give to the primary pupils who couldn't afford. I also got chance to express my feeling towards them because there is nothing much than giving hope to the hopeless.
I have participated in sport-cultural manifestation "Inclusion", which was organized by Association of Students with Disabilities. The aim of that project was to promote equality in education, sport activities, social interactions between students with and without disabilities. This association also advocates to provide equal access to higher education for all students. This year, in October "Inclusion 2" will take place, and I will participate again to help young people to socialize, have fun, understand and listen lectures, do all sport activities despite their disability.
The United Nations Volunteers programme has called for the scaling up of volunteer effort to support regional integration in East Africa. Speaking at the Africa Conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development held at the UN offices in Nairobi, UNV Senior Manager for East Africa Tapiwa Kamuruko pointed out that volunteerism could contribute greatly to enhancing regional exchanges and meeting common development challenges. Mr. Kamuruko observed that the high number of unemployed youth in the region should be encouraged to take up voluntary service and supported in exchange programmes to ensure they’re gainfully engaged and are exposed to relevant skills and culture. Speaking at the opening of the same event, UN Resident Coordinator & UNDP Resident Representative Aeneas Chuma pointed out that the UN system, led by UNV, has continued to support volunteerism, and called for stakeholders to continue doing so. He also noted the UN Country Team’s continued support to the process of developing a national volunteer policy for Kenya through the Ministry of Gender, Children & Social Development. The conference, held from 2nd to 4th July, brought together about 400 young people from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Burundi as well as Nigeria, Korea, Canada and others. It also involved several volunteer involving organizations, both local and international as well as senior representatives from the private sector and government. Over the two days, UNV encouraged discussion around the outcomes of IYV+10, the UN General Assembly Resolution 66/67 of 2011 and the call from the UN Secretary General to establish a Global Youth Volunteering modality. The conference ended with a resolution for the establishment of an East Africa Peace & Service Corps that will be a platform for galvanizing youth volunteer action in the region. Photo ©UNV UNV’s Senior Portfolio Manager for East Africa Tapiwa Kamuruko (left) presents a copy of the State of the World’s Volunteering Report to Kenya’s Prime Minister Rt. Hon. Raila Odinga, EGH, MP, during the Africa Conference on Volunteer Action for Peace and Development.
Kakuma Refugee Camp located in Turkana West District near the border with South Sudan that hosts around 99,000 refugees from 13 countries, mainly from Somalia, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Congo, Sudan, Burundi, has experienced the first general election of the entire camp since its establishment in 1992 on 30th June 2012. Tomoko Yasunaga, an International UN Volunteer assigned as Peace Building Officer of UNHCR sub-office Kakuma, organized this election mobilizing around 600 refugee volunteers and 250 Kenyan and international staff of all aid agencies which are based in Kakuma together with around 100 refugee and Kenyan security personnel. Refugee volunteers, Kenyan and international staff were working as electoral committees and presiding officers at 91 polling stations and tens of thousands refugees who are above 18 years old voted for their leaders and many of them experienced the election for the first time in their life. The long journey started in 2010, a few months after she arrived in Kakuma. As a Peace Building Officer, Tomoko was assigned to promote the peaceful co-existence among refugees and began to realize there was a gap in the existing leadership structure, since it was based on nationality, tribe and clans, thus aggravating tribalism and clan-based divisions. As a result, it brought about a situation in which mutual cooperation between communities was weak and often ineffective, especially in terms of the sharing of limited resources. There were also challenges in conveying information between leaders and community members as the number of refugees in each community was disproportional. What is more, issues relating to the provision of services and issues affecting persons living with disabilities, gender, children, and particular groups were not well represented by the structure. Tomoko together with her counterparts in NGOs, government and senior UNHCR staff started discussing ideas around restructuring the leadership to one based on constituencies made up of blocks and zones and camps, for enhancing effective service delivery, information sharing and mutual cooperation among refugees. Despite the agreement and full consensus of all agencies, the concept had been completely rejected by refugee leaders who had been sitting in their position for long time and their community members who were influenced by them. The distrust between different ethnic groups due to their historical background was also a great obstacle for their acceptance. However, she and her colleagues undauntedly tried to convince the refugee community members, and gradually the aim of the new leadership structure became to be infiltrated to the refugee population and finally accepted by all communities. Based on the concept, the camp constitution was drafted by the refugee representatives of each nationality and passed by the government that manages the camp, all agencies and the refugee leaders, and electoral committees were formed in each constituency, a total of 91 blocks. Since the election was the first experience for most of refugees, the members of electoral committees had to undergo training in democracy and the concept of fair and free elections. Despite the initial strong rejection, around 600 refugee volunteers became to be keen on serving for improvement of their communities. However, although the process finally seemed to be on the right track, there were still numerous challenges that needed to be overcome such as the voters’ registration, mobilization of Kenyan staff, logistics, security measures, absence of female candidates due to cultural reasons, civic educations especially for illiterate populations and etc. Tomoko and her team overcame each challenge one by one and, the general election was finally conducted two years after the start of the project. Almost 1,000 staff including refugees, Kenyans and internationals, regardless of their positions, united to work hard and make this exercise a big success. Despite the concerns of security risks and chaos, the election in 91 constituencies went peacefully, and refugees congratulated the winners as the election results were announced and success of the first election of the entire camp. However, this was not the goal of the journey. Tomoko and her colleagues are still working on ensuring that the new system promotes the fair and effective distribution of services and information, and mutual support, and eventually enhance peaceful co-existence among refugees. She strongly wishes that refugees who came from war-torn countries to learn how to live in peace by overcoming tribalism and build democratic society, and eventually rebuild peaceful societies in their own countries in the future. Photo©UNHCR UN Volunteer Tomoko Yasunaga (in blue cap) poses with elated refugees at the Kakuma Refugee Camp on the sidelines of the camp’s first ever General Election
There is a disastrous situation in Hussaini village due the glacier advancement for the last many decades, resulting in much suffering of the local community Both for drinking and irrigation water, the people of Hussaini ware working on the glacier 8 to 12 hours on daily basis for many years now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NT25E3NLxuY&feature=player_embedded
One of the major achievements in my research projects is a project for water irrigation from the southern snout of the glacier to the southern snout channels successfully launched in 2004 with the helpful use of global positioning system (GPS). More details about this project (photographs & video clips ) are available at: http://sisuni.multiply.com
A glacier is located in the west and the Khunzhrav River is flowing to the East of the village but due to glacial fluctuation and surge there is no water in the village. A drought like situation hovers on the village for many years. As the glacier is advancing very fast toward the Khnzhrav River and KKH - located at a distance of some 254 meters, the four channels dug out from the snout of the glacier have been destroyed and now the temporary solution was obtaining insufficient water through a pipeline from the southern glacier's originated stream to the northern snout channels.
All the communities are benefiting from the project. The total population is 689 souls, living in 91 households. The project is critical if the GLOFs washed the water tanks and pipeline, the only source of water to the entire village.
The use of Global Positioning System (GPS) made it unique where it has given the alternative source to solve the problem which the mountain community suffering for last many decades. In a small village of Gojal located in Upper Hunza valley in central Karakoram at the extreme North of Pakistan newly called Gilgit-Baltistan border with China at an altitude of 2,556 meters above sea level. The project was designed and implement in a location where the area was very vulnerable due to slop instability and rock fall from the slops and the project failed before the completion of the work, but when we surveyed the another source area and the village channels and the young people from the community worked voluntarily to implement the project and it was successful which is the only source of water for irrigation for the whole village. There was one pipeline in 2004 and another 2 placed at the same source in 2005 which irrigate the entire Hussaini village through three channels. A drought situation was prevailing in the village before the implementation of the project. 65% of the household are depending on agriculture and potato is the only cash crop of the area to support their children’s education and other needs. The glacier is advancing and moving toward the Karakoram highway and destroys the sedimentation tanks and pipelines. This pipeline was also washed away by the recent GLOF and next GLOF is, again, in an alarming position. The community repairs the water tanks every year and two volunteers deployed there to maintain the water supply daily in irrigation season from March to mid September. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtNWyBFt1ow&feature=player_embedded We also completed another project at the lateral moraine of the glacier with help of GPS technology in 2010, a more sustainable project than the pipeline. A very visible impact of climate change is observing in Karakorum region, where the glacier is melting very fast and GLOF events are occurring every year in the main three glaciers located along the Karakorum Highway. A community initiated project which has solved the water shortage in the village but as well as stopped the glacial lake formation and outburst at the same location. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUToiIbVVpw&feature=player_embedded or
On January 4th 2010 landslide hit Attabad village in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan caused extensive fatality and structural damage. It also blocked the Hunza River forming a lake which engulfed more than 3 villages and left huge impact on local economy in very few initial weeks. Since then the region and a population of approximately 50,000 is under continual threat from the rising of the height of the lake formed due to the landslide. Lake water had already displaced approximately 20,000 residents, some villages completely submerged in upstream while downstream communities have been at severe risk from the expected sudden flood in case of dam breach.
As a volunteer and being member of the affected population of the area, I offered my voluntarily services for the “Attabad Landslide Relief Support” at http://local.com.pk/hunza/; a web based relief facilitation effort to help the organizations working on grounds for affected communities of Gojal in Upper Hunza. I completed a survey of all the affected areas of Gojal & Hunza and collected spatial information in form of GPS readings of damages public properties, IDP camps, medical facility etc, I also collected photographs and video clips to highlight the real issues on the grounds. I have been reporting with updated information on local situation of villages, lake water changes, medical & relief camps status and videos on daily basis which then was updated at above mentioned website and on my personal video blog “Gulbtur” at http://gulbtur.wordpress.com. It had been a very difficult task since a limited internet access was available in mountainous areas of Pakistan but I have been successfully kept updating the GIS data from the ground and sources in the region on daily basis which were needed to be made available widely. All of this volunteer work turned out to be a very helpful source of information for the Government, Non-profit Organizations and related agencies to assist the suffering communities in the climate hit areas of Attabad, Gojal and Hunza. Complete story up to date: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zevBVop-sCk
He fundado hace más de 5 años una red mundial de voluntarios profesionales de la comunicación y la publicidad para que donen en cada uno de sus países campañas con fines sociales destinadas a mejorar la calidad de vida, hacer tomar conciencia y solicitar ayuda humanitaria. Son más de 600 miembros de todo el mundo. Pueden visitar su sitio www.awbnetwork.org
Es un efecto en cadena que crece año a año como un efecto dominó. Ayudamos a los que ayudan!