Monrovia and the world mobilize to face environmental challenges
Monrovia, Liberia: Liberians and the international community headed for the beach today – not to relax, but to volunteer for our planet.
The International Volunteer Day event brought people together from across Liberia and across the world. Monrovia civil society, UNV volunteers, civilian and military personnel from the United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) and other UN agencies, plus contingents from the Armed Forces of Liberia, all joined together to take part, make their voices heard and actions count.
The Day began with a march from UNMIL headquarters. Clad in white, yellow and blue 'Volunteering for our Planet' T-shirts, and entertained by West African chants from the Armed Forces of Liberia, the thousand-strong group proceeded at a brisk pace towards Monrovia's heavily polluted beach area.
There the volunteers collected rakes, spades, gloves and bags, and assisted by heavy lifters from Monrovia City Council began to clear the beach of litter.
Despite the heat and the humidity, the volunteers set about the task wholeheartedly. Mary L. Stevens, a student volunteer from the University of Liberia, said: "I think this made a real difference. Before today we had garbage all around." Fellow student Cynthia Camara added: "I feel very proud to be among all the volunteers cleaning my country... We cleared the place up, planted some trees and you can see a real improvement."
Bea Dennis, a Liberian national UNV volunteer Project Assistant with UNIFEM, was impressed. "It was great to see the participation," she said, "and we had an enjoyable time too!"
Senior officials, including UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri and the Mayor of Monrovia Mary Broh, got down to work with the volunteers too. The beach cleaning was followed by a ceremony to commemorate International Volunteer Day, during which Special Representative to the Secretary-General (SRSG) Ellen Margrethe Løj read a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Her Deputy, Moustapha Soumare, spoke on behalf of UNDP Administrator Helen Clark. The City Mayor, Director of the Environmental Protection Agency Alfred Amah and Deputy Minister of Defense Othello Warwick also addressed the audience, as did UNV Executive Coordinator Flavia Pansieri.
Ms. Pansieri expressed her pleasure and satisfaction with the million hours registered on the 'Volunteering for our Planet' website. "UNV wants to highlight how important it is for people everywhere to get involved and volunteer towards solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change," she said, emphasizing that International Volunteer Day falls just two days before the start of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen.
"We encourage everyone to volunteer for our planet," she continued, "and support the United Nations campaign to 'Seal the Deal' in Copenhagen... Governments are increasingly recognizing the urgency of addressing climate change, and the support they have from their citizens."
After explaining the variety of ways in which volunteers were making a difference to the environment she called again on governments to note the millions of people who are actively volunteering for our planet, and for the benefit of society in general.
In addition UN speakers paid tribute to UNV volunteers Lydia Wonyene, a Liberian, and Filipino national Jossie Garbo Esto, who died in Afghanistan in October.