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Remarks by Sonia Josserand-Mercier at the UNV 30th Anniversary

01 June 2001

Mr. Murata and this little video have already told you a lot about the involvement of UN Volunteers in the area of IT in Bhutan.

Personally, I am very proud of being part of this group of UNVs IT specialists in Bhutan. It is a very interesting experience to actively participate in the development of IT in that little Himalayan kingdom. In a way it is like seeing what probably happened in Europe some eight years back when the Internet for instance started to take off.

But the most exciting part of my present life is certainly to be a UN volunteer in Bhutan.

Five years ago I had never heard of UNV (someone said it was UN's best kept secret) and I found out what it was all about when I was recruited in 1996 to develop the UNV web site.

Through my work at headquarters I had the chance to get to know many UN volunteers and their stories, experiences and enthusiasm had a fabulous impact on my dreams and eventually on my life.

I wanted to be part of their group, I also wanted to share whatever I knew, I wanted to experience working in developing countries on a long term basis, I wanted another life away from the coziness of a headquarters office…

I wanted to be a volunteer myself and find out what it was all really about.

In November 2000, I eventually left for a Volunteer assignment of IT Training Specialist in the Youth Centre of Bhutan's capital, Thimphu.

I enjoy very much the human experience you get when working at the community level.I get to know the Bhutanese culture, through the youth I am teaching. I find out about their concerns, their hopes, their ideas on the future, their dreams… and I answer them on whatever they want to know about my culture, my ideas on the future, about my perceptions of their country.

When I first arrived on my assignment, the IT infrastructure at the Youth Centre was very basic and my first task was to advise on technical improvements. Now, the Youth Centre has equipped its computer room with a LAN and more developments are planned for the future.

I am also developing IT training modules more adapted to the youth groups visiting the Youth Centre than the original unique module available.

Bhutan is now starting to face the rising issue of youth unemployment, and many young Bhutanese out of school are joining the Basic Computer Operation course to build necessary skills on the job market of a country new to IT.

Last month, I initiated an experiment with the cooperation of a VSA volunteer from New-Zealand working as Career Counsellor at the Youth Centre.

A new module was offered , which combined basic computer operation with job seeking skills and techniques.

CV writing is relatively new in Bhutan, and letter writing is still a weak point in career education. It was a great feeling of achievement to see the sense of satisfaction that the youths displayed after completing and seeing their CV in print.

A few of these students have now found a job, and the others display enough self-confidence gained through this course, to see the future in a more positive light. Without the cooperation of Anna Reece, the VSA Volunteer, this experiment would not have been possible. I am very happy about this experimental module and its success among the youths. But I am also very happy about the fruitful joint efforts between myself and Anna, between our two organizations.

This year is the International Year of Volunteers and it is the perfect opportunity for other volunteers to team up whenever such a cooperation can help our host country, institution or community. Lets' be United Volunteers!

Tashi Delek!

UNV is administered by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)