Rutendo Bamhare, UN Volunteer Communications Specialist with UNICEF interviews community members as part of her volunteer assignment.
Rutendo Bamhare, UN Volunteer Communications Specialist with UNICEF interviews community members as part of her volunteer assignment.

The fulfillment of making a difference

Rutendo Bamhare is a national UN Volunteer Communications Specialist for UNICEF in Zimbabwe. After serving in her volunteer assignment for two years, Rutendo reflects on what drives her to continue to be an inspiration in action for young people in Zimbabwe.

It's summer and in the sweltering heat of Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, we sought refuge in a tranquil, shaded area. I was about to take an interview. A conversation with a young community member. The interview quickly turned into a heart-to-heart. Nineteen-year-old, Debbie Chinochema, looked me in the eye, smiled intermittently, before sharing her journey. It was a story of surviving stigma to becoming a community champion, and then evolving into a strong voice for adolescents living with HIV.

Triumph. Resilience. Volunteerism. These are tenets that have shaped my journey as a UN Volunteer Communications Specialist for UNICEF for the last two years. Traversing both urban and rural areas in remote corners of Zimbabwe, I have met the elderly and the young, these are women striving to change their circumstances or those of their children and communities. Capturing their stories of triumph, resilience, and impact and sharing them with the world has been a highlight of my career.

But Debbie’s story caught my attention like no other. A young woman at the mercy of deep-rooted societal prejudices. And from that to become a changemaker, a champion, the one who stands in the face of adversity. She is revered by women and girls in her community. 

Like me, Debbie is a volunteer. She is driven by passion. Inspired to create change. She volunteers as a Community Adolescent Treatment Supporter and her service includes providing counseling and support to adolescents living with HIV/AIDS in Harare.

With a heartwarming smile, she said during our interview, “I am driven to support adolescents living with HIV/AIDS, enabling them to live their lives to the fullest. My goal is to help them be optimistic about their future. I want them to have ambition."

Often, Debbie had to walk long distances to reach her peers and as such encountered challenges relating to the way society perceived her and what she was trying to achieve. 

In the course of my work, I also come across a wide range of stakeholders such as the government, media, civil society, donors, and the ones I enjoy interacting with the most, the young people. Collaborating with different groups. Creating partnerships. This is what ensures the success of various initiatives.

Sometimes we, volunteers are faced with a humanitarian emergency context. Such as a public health emergency, which is often the case in Zimbabwe. This adds pressure to our work environment and requires a significant amount of flexibility. I am fortunate that as a UN Volunteer, I have the facilities so I can deliver on the mandate. The force that drives me first and foremost is my passion for volunteering and the resilience of being able to thrive in challenging circumstances. 

Inspired by a passion for storytelling and a deep desire to make a positive impact, I knew I wanted to be involved in communications. The work is diverse and dynamic. But the goal remains the same – to communicate the impact of UNICEF, advocate for children’s rights and spotlight stories of young people like Debbie.

Moreover, encounters with people like Debbie and having the opportunity to share their stories provide me a chance to reflect and appreciate my contributions towards the Sustainable Development Goals. I found the same passion that mirrored all over Debbie’s face as she narrated her story to me.

Debbie’s story is not only impactful as an adolescent changemaker who touched the lives of thousands of young people. It also serves as an inspiration for volunteerism. It highlights the value of unwavering commitment.

Volunteering transcends mere duty, and as a UN Volunteer, it embodies a dedication to the Sustainable Development Goals. Like all endeavours, there are many challenges that a volunteer faces while serving. Yet, the rewards are endless. The fulfillment of making a difference! 

As I concluded my conversation with Debbie, her words resonated loud and clear, "Overcoming my fear of stigma and uncertainty about the future as a young person living with HIV is what inspired me to persevere despite the adversities.” 

Debbie and I shared smiles as we ended the interview. Our bonding as volunteers was evident. Another commonality, which is perhaps true for every volunteer. The tenacious pursuit of one’s passion through volunteerism for a brighter future.