International Volunteer Day is a chance for individual volunteers, communities and organizations to promote their contributions to development at the local, national and international levels. By combining UN support with a grassroots mandate, International Volunteer Day is a unique opportunity for people and volunteer-involving organizations to work with government agencies, non-profit institutions, community groups, academia and the private sector.
Celebrating International Volunteer Day 2012 with Art
Volunteering for Water – a Poster Art Exhibition to mark this year’s IVD
5th of December 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka
A poster art exhibition, “Volunteering for Water” and an award ceremony was held to mark the International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2012. Organized by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Sri Lanka and the United Nations Communication Group together with two schools in Colombo, the event brought together more than 1700 young artists island-wide to identify the importance of volunteering and water for sustainable development. The celebration was graced by the Hon. Minister of Social Services, Mr. Felix Perera. The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka Mr. Subinay Nandy and UNDP Country Director Razina Bilgrami were also among the distinguished guests.
Judged based on their creative, conceptual and artistic qualities, T. D. A. Bometh Dissanayaka’s entry won the award under junior category (age 6-10) while H. P. Ishani Vidurangana displayed her artistic superiority winning the award in the intermediate category (age 7-11). H. R. Chaturi Lakshini was selected the best entry for the senior category (age 17 and above).
During the celebration, another 77 out of the 1700 paintings sent for the art competition from all over the country were commended by a judging panel composed of professional artists, as well as experts on water and volunteering. The commended artists were awarded prizes and certificates for the energy and vibrancy they put into the paintings. These creative pieces were showcased in the exhibition organized by UNV and United Nations Communications Group at the Disaster Management Centre prior to the awards ceremony. Using their visual impressions, the paintings on display spoke of the central theme and crossed the boundaries of language in highlighting the importance of volunteering for water.
In his speech the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Sri Lanka, Mr. Subinay Nandy emphasized the importance of volunteerism for sustainable development stating that “Sustainable development projects can be large-scale and multi-sectoral, or small-scale initiatives. Volunteering action within these initiatives can go a long way in making a meaningful impact”. The Minister of Social Services also highlighted the importance of the tradition of volunteering in Sri Lanka, encouraging all to take examples from the event to contribute to the country’s development. “From the villages to the cities, Sri Lankans have always placed a very high importance on volunteering. We saw this not only during tragedies like the tsunami but also in the day to day activities of the people. By highlighting the importance of volunteering in a forum such as this, we hope that every citizen of Sri Lanka, young and old, continues to value volunteerism” he said.
This event was primarily organized by over 60 volunteers, their contribution involved in organizing, coordinating technical handling, video productions and performances. This was a story of volunteerism not only to celebrate an important day but a way of sustaining the idea of volunteering for a cause throughout the year.
Improving the lives of disabled people in China.
The Zheng Weining Charity Foundation supports and promotes opportunities for people with disability in China. Our project is about developing opportunities for volunteers to work with disabled people in education, employment, welfare and self development. Our volunteers give their time and expertise to create a model for inclusive social and enterprise development. There are an estimated 85 million people with disability in China and, as the gap between rich and poor widens, they are often the most excluded from education and employment. The Foundation is supported by the whole profits from social enterprises run for and by disabled people and volunteers make a huge contribution to the lives of many people.
I am honoured to serve in my local community because it has brought great benefits to all those around. For example the volunteer work I do at a local newsletter helps promote awareness in the community. Things, organisations and events that would have not been otherwise mentioned feature in the magazine and that strengthens community spirit.
I look forward to continual volunteer work and see more positive changes for the better take place at home and abroad.
A variety of assistive or learning technologies (AT/LT) are being used successfully within the education system to support the learning process for students with learning disabilities. As is the case with any new software there is a significant learning curve for new users. Through an innovative combination of trained volunteers and online resources, the Ottawa Volunteers in Education program is training volunteers to support students as they begin to use learning technology, so they can reap the benefits of these tools as quickly as possible. Free online AT training and resources are available to all English and French speaking individuals.
The Young Explorers' Institute for Social Service, a civil society of Kolkata, India working for the development of Youths in West Bengal for last 21 years. Awareness generating on the effect environment pollution is one of the important area of this civil society.
I am E.M. Raju, NSS coordinator. We have organised many program to improve the quality of environment in the college and the surrounding villages. Nearly 100 volunteers are working with me and many of them are very active in strengthening the community. We have conducted Green and Clean campus program, special camps for creating awareness among villagers and identifying drop out school children. We are also promoting Eco friendly energy usages.
E.M. Raju, Associate Professor of Physics, NSS coordinator,
Vidya Jyothi Institute of Technology,
Aziznagar Gate, C.B. Post,
Hyderabad - 500075, Andhrapradesh, India
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
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.