My name is Celine Rehring, from Germany. In July 2015, I started a UN Volunteer assignment in Africa that spanned over a year and a half. It's 2023 and I am still in the UN system, though in a different role. This is my story of how I started, and where I am today.
It was early 2015 when I heard about UNV at an international job fair in Berlin. I had graduated with a law degree and newly qualified as a magistrate, with professional experience at the European Commission in Brussels. I was looking for opportunities that would take me far, and not place me behind a desk handling legal cases. While at the job fair, I attended an information session on German lawyers at the UN. Coincidently, the person leading that session was a former UN Volunteer, and that's how my journey in the UN system began.
When one refers to volunteering in Germany, it is commonly understood that this will be unpaid. However, when I accepted the UN Volunteer assignment, it came as a pleasant surprise to me that there was a monthly remuneration attached to it. I had planned to volunteer nevertheless!
My UN Volunteer duty station was Bria in the Central African Republic. I served with the United Nations Multi-dimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) as Judicial Affairs Officer from July 2015 through December 2016. And from that point in time, my life changed 180 degrees, from a very process-oriented and organized routine where everything worked like clockwork.
Bria was a non-family duty station in the east, a completely chaotic lifestyle with no process or organized routine. At first, these extremely difficult living conditions were tough, but then I learnt to thrive. And that's what gave impetus to the direction my life has taken since then. I can safely say that I caught the UN virus!
Celine Rehring (right), former UN Volunteer Judicial Affairs Officer with MINUSCA in Bria, Central African Republic, reporting on attacks by armed groups in the area. ©UNV, 2016.
My UN Volunteer assignment focused on restoration of the rule of law and the fight against impunity. One of the highlights of my service in the Central African Republic was setting up mobile courts to issue birth certificates.
Every time the local population feared for their lives, they would flee, leaving everything behind, including their birth certificates. During the crisis in 2013, government officials abandoned their posts, leaving the village chiefs to fend for themselves. In this environment, the mobile courts in the eastern villages helped people get much-needed official documentation reissued.
UN Volunteers go far beyond their mandate to support communities. Besides my role in Judicial Affairs, I volunteered to organize weekly markets in Bria, so local women could sell fruits and vegetables to earn their livelihood. I also organized sport events, in particular, football for community members.
When you are serving in field missions, especially in peacekeeping, you are really up close and personal with many people from different parts of the organization like UN Police and UN Peacekeeping Military.
After my UN Volunteer assignment ended, I stayed in the UN system. I couldn't imagine working anywhere but here. For a short while, I worked as a Legal Drafting Officer with European Union Capacity Building Mission in Mali, based in Bamako. After that, I was a Judicial Affairs Officer with the United Nations Multi-Dimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), also in Bamako, for five years.
Currently, I am with the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) as a Human Rights Officer. My job responsibility centres on transitional justice and the fight against impunity, and I am based in Kinshasa with my two children.
My UN Volunteer assignment became a guiding light to where I am now. Living and breathing the motto "Peacekeeper first" is the conditioning I got when I first joined the UN system, and it has stayed with me ever since.
Celine Rehring (sitting front centre), former UN Volunteer Judicial Affairs Officer with MINUSCA from 2015 through 2016. In this photo, Celine is in an eastern village in the Central African Republic sensitizing the local population, including armed groups, on a formal judicial system and international humanitarian law. ©UNV, 2016.