Online Volunteering service within the UN Volunteers Programme provides a way to gain professional experience in a UN system while offering your expertise virtually to advance global peace and contributing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, the online volunteering journey can create new and unexpected opportunities. This is how Nazlı Güzin Özdil’s and Hassan Samini Ngala’s story began.
Nazlı is a passionate Turkish volunteer who discovered her love for voluntarism during community service projects, where she tutored at a village school. With her background in teaching English and a Master’s in Social Policy, Nazlı’s dream was to combine her desire to serve #foreverychild and her evidence-generation skills. She would later describe volunteering as “devotion, sharing and impactful”.
“We sometimes are so focused on ourselves and forget to share what we have with each other. Volunteering is an opportunity to share, to show that we care and to nourish each other. International Volunteer Day is just a reminder and recognition of a force for positive change". Nazlı Güzin Özdil, UN Volunteer with UNICEF
Even during the Covid-19 pandemic, Nazlı persevered in pursuing her dreams and continued making meaningful contributions to communities. She completed six UNV Online Volunteering assignments, including collaborating with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) SDG AI Lab where she supported developing an open-source, production-ready Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) classification tool in order to foster a common understanding on SDGs. Nazlı’s dedication led to an onsite role as an Evaluation Specialist with UNICEF Türkiye.
In the context of a UNICEF project, Nazlı saw an opportunity to leverage the expertise of the SDG AI Lab. She took the initiative to connect UNICEF and UNDP teams, drawing the insights gained from her previous experience with the team. Reflecting on the encounter, Nazlı shared, “When we introduced ourselves, I mentioned that I was one of the hundreds who volunteered online for their project. It was an interesting encounter for both sides as meeting of the team and Online Volunteers in person rarely happens. I feel quite lucky to experience one of these surprising occasions.”
Hassan’s motivation to volunteer online, on the other hand, was to expand his professional network and utilize his technical skills to contribute meaningfully to the UN. As a Statistician, Hassan supported UNDP Türkiye to process data to facilitate SDG dialogue by developing and implementing pipelines for SDG data in Central Asia using python, assisting in building tools to harvest, compile, and clean the data from Application Programming Interfaces (APIs). By monitoring SDG progress, financing and improving the EU programmes, the project Hassan supported aimed to contribute to sustainable development through a knowledge-sharing platform. The platform was using an Open SDG tool which Hassan explained as: “The fact that the initiative was an open-source SDG project greatly captured my interest and enthusiasm.”
“The experience was quite exhilarating and at the same time very enriching… I think Online Volunteering is such a golden opportunity where you can be able to keep the stone rolling in terms of achievement of the noble Sustainable Development Goals.” Hassan Samini Ngala, UN Volunteer with UNEP Kenya
After he completed his Online Volunteering assignment, Hassan started serving as an onsite UN Volunteer in his home country, Kenya. As a Programme Assistant, Data and Information Management Specialist with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), Hassan is using his professional skills in data structure design, data analysis, developing operational prototypes, and much more to facilitate the delivery of UNEP’s mandate which is to inspire, inform, and enable nations and peoples to improve their quality of life.
As we reflect on the theme of this year’s International Volunteer Day, #IfEveryoneDid, a heartfelt thank you to Nazlı, Hassan, and many more dedicated UN Volunteers – both Online and Onsite. Their stories inspire and motivate others to join UN Volunteers and make meaningful contributions. Imagine what the world would look like #IfEveryoneDid.