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Denis Yameogo's story
by Denis Yameogo, UN Volunteer with UNICEF Democratic Republic of the Congo

20 November 2011

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo: My story

I am from Burkina Faso, a West African country located on the southern edge of Africa’s Sahara desert.  Minimal rainfall makes living conditions very hard for people. In 1976, when I started primary school, less than 20 per cent of all children had access to education. Millions of children  do not attend school due to poverty. I could have suffered the same fate like these millions of children being ignored in this remote part of the world, unable to write, nor read.

The birth of my commitment to volunteering

Aware of my privileged situation, and the fact that access to school is denied to so many children, I decided to study sociology in order to help more parents understand the importance of education. Having fairly escaped illiteracy myself, I felt it was a must for me to help others. When I think about this great chance I had, it makes me shiver. As a matter of fact, for the last ten years, I have now been working in international organizations that feature education as one of their main objectives".

My volunteering experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)

"With UNICEF in the DRC, I have been supporting the work of the Child Protection Section. One of the section’s goals is to ensure equitable access to quality social services for all children, including the most vulnerable. In order to achieve this objective, community empowerment is a pre-requisite. Social workers and community volunteers are mobilized and trained to work under the supervision of the provincial coordination, a cluster of all stakeholders operating in the child protection field at the province level. It facilitates access to basic services by developing the referral system. By doing so, we have what we call protected communities that are able to prevent, protect and take care of all vulnerability cases related to children. In 2010, our project worked with local and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to establish local coordination committees. At total 206,779 vulnerable children were identified and of them 88,675 (26,761 girls) have been oriented to primary school.

In Kinshasa, about 20,350 children are without family care. With partners, we implement projects that prevent children from living this way, and provide vocational training to others. Families empowered with income generating activities become able to take care of children.

Volunteering, a unique experience for life

My motivation to come to DRC was to gain new experience, meet new people, new cultures, new know-how, in short, the ultimate cross-cultural experience I have ever had. The great discovery that brought me out of Burkina Faso could not be found anywhere, but in volunteering. Volunteering is a record of which I am justifiably proud; because it clearly illustrates that I have been valued as a “world citizen”.

To me, the essential reason for volunteering is to live a useful life in the world. It is a great experience of giving and receiving. To those hesitating to volunteer, I tell you this "We must all try one day, because only one man can make the difference".*

*American President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)

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