Ms Lucy Ndungu (right), Regional Manager for UNV's regional office in East and Southern Africa Regional Office, with Dr Peter G. Kirira (left), Deputy Vice Chancellor of Mount Kenya University during a meeting to discuss and further strengthen partner collaboration.
Ms Lucy Ndungu (centre right), Regional Manager for UNV's regional office in East and Southern Africa Regional Office, with Dr Peter G. Kirira (centre left), Deputy Vice Chancellor of Mount Kenya University during a meeting to discuss and further strengthen partner collaboration.

From campus to global development: a partnership for growth of UN University Volunteers

Since 2020, Mount Kenya University has partnered with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme on opportunities for students to serve as UN University Volunteers. Annually, a select number of university students are placed with UN partners in Kenya, upon graduation and for up to six months. These assignments enable the volunteers apply their knowledge and skills in, while gaining experience and exposure to UN peace and development work.

In 2022, Mount Kenya University funded three national UN University Volunteer assignments. Brenda Kemunto Onyancha, Jane Wamucii Ngure and Jeremiah Newton Otieno joined the teams of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), respectively.

The youth volunteers share the valuable experience they have gained in global development, and how their perspectives have changed through their assignments. 

Jeremiah Newton Otieno, former UN University Volunteer Information Systems Assistant, UNEP

Jeremiah has a bachelor's degree in environmental health from Mount Kenya University. With his passionate for the environment, he served as an Information System Assistant with the UNEP information technology team. After concluding his assignment, UNEP retained Jeremiah as a UN Youth Volunteer. 

During my time with UNEP, my key responsibilities involved delivering service desk support to colleagues across all units. I played a key role in providing comprehensive information, particularly to IT and internet requirements of colleagues, while ensuring accurate dissemination of information throughout the organization.

One of the accomplishments I am most proud of was conducting a comprehensive training session on the UN internet system for UNEP staff, in collaboration with my IT colleagues. I not only assisted in facilitating the training, but also learned so much from the experience. A clear testament to the influence I had during my assignment was the recognition of my supervisor and colleagues that they could rely on me and entrust me with additional responsibilities. 

Jeremiah consistently produces high-quality work in a timely manner. He demonstrates excellent teamwork, collaborating with colleagues to find solutions and achieve shared goals. Throughout his assignment, he was very flexible, with a high level of professionalism. He handled stress exceptionally well, easily adjusted to changing assignments and embraced new approaches. We are proud of him as a volunteer. --Saiful Ridwan, Senior Information Systems Officer at UNEP and Jeremiah's supervisor 

My volunteering experience taught me the importance of perseverance and filled me with pride, and I can only recommend it to fellow young people. Inspiring others to pursue their passion, while also making a meaningful impact in the lives of others, is an incredibly fulfilling experience. 

To me, volunteering is the most rewarding form of sacrifice. It means serving the community around you. For me, the most rewarding aspect of volunteerism is giving back and making a lasting impact. --Jeremiah Otieno, former UN University Volunteer Information System Assistant, UNEP

Brenda Kemunto Onyancha, former UN University Volunteer Administrative Assistant with UNDP 

After graduating with a bachelor's degree in law from Mount Kenya University in 2022, Brenda Onyancha embarked on a new chapter as a national UN University Volunteer Administrative Assistant with UNDP. She shares her experience.

My role was dedicated to supporting administrative tasks. I supported the organization's protocol services, processing essential documentation and liaising with government officials on immigration and tax procedures for UN personnel. My legal knowledge came in handy, helping me to effectively carry out my responsibilities.

Under the guidance of my supervisor in the procurement unit, I assisted in managing the disposal process of UNDP's vehicles for the year 2022. Interacting with individuals from diverse backgrounds, including senior UN and government personnel, as well as UNDP vendors and suppliers, further enriched my experience.

We value the contribution made by Brenda as a UN Volunteer Administrative Assistant. We recognize her exceptional resourcefulness throughout the assignment. She is extremely talented and helped us achieve significant efficiency in our operations. --Margaret Mbugua, former Head of Procurement at UNDP Kenya and Brenda's supervisor 

When I initially joined UNDP Kenya, I faced the challenge of adapting to a new multicultural environment, having just graduated from university. Additionally, I had limited experience in procurement and protocol work.

I am grateful to Mount Kenya University for sponsoring my assignment. It proved to be an invaluable opportunity for me to acquire new skills, engage with diverse cultures, and gain a deeper understanding of the UN's important efforts to advance the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Through this volunteer assignment, I gained insights into operational systems at UNDP. The experience boosted my confidence and exposed me to various learning and career development opportunities. I particularly benefited from the UNV coaching platform, which provided valuable guidance.

By implementing the key lessons I learnt during my assignment, I subsequently secured a job opportunity at a hospital in Kenya. My time as a UN Volunteer also played an important role in shaping my career path and influenced my decision to pursue a master's degree. 

Volunteering embodies selflessness, driven by the individual's desire to make positive impact and contribute to their communities. My experience as a UN Volunteer will forever hold a special place in my career journey. It instilled in me the values of empathy, compassion and dedication to creating a meaningful difference in the lives of others. --Brenda Kemunto Onyancha, former UN University Volunteer Administrative Assistant, UNDP Kenya

Jane Wamucii Ngure, former UN University Volunteer Store/Logistics Assistant with IOM 

Jane Wamucii Ngure graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economics and finance from Mount Kenya University in 2022. She joined the International Organization for Migration in October 2022 as a national UN University Volunteer Store/Logistics Assistant.  

My assignment took place in the logistics unit of IOM, where I assisted with store management. Every day, in close collaboration with my supervisor and other colleagues, I received office supplies, particularly for the procurement office, and helped organize items in the warehouse.  

I conducted two pilot exercises for stock-taking in all five storage units of IOM. Then I generated a comprehensive report highlighting the challenges within the storage section and providing recommendations for improvement. I consider this report one of my notable achievements and am proud that the recommendations are being implemented to ensure efficient storage maintenance and regular stock taking. As a result, IOM has an updated database inventory system, enabling timely and effective tracking of the movement of goods.

To me, volunteering is about using our skills and knowledge to improve the quality of life of our people and communities and grow in the process. My assignment at IOM gave me an opportunity to offer my skills to further the Sustainable Development Goals. --Jane Wamucii Ngure, UN University Volunteer Logistics Assistant, IOM  

Volunteering has been an excellent way to learn about the UN system, to reflect on my strengths and weakness and grow professionally. The UNV assignment provided me with access to UN libraries and the e-campus platform, where I had access to resources to grow my skills and increase my knowledge.

My host entity also offered me platforms and resources to enhance my knowledge and build professional networks for myself. I have really enjoyed being part of something great that allowed me help people in need and make a difference for others, as well as for myself. 

The UN Volunteers (UNV) programme offers its partners – UN entities, governments, universities, civil society organizations and the private sector – an opportunity to fund UN Volunteer assignments. The UN University Volunteer scheme enables young students enrolled in universities to broaden their personal and professional skills. They can gain experience in the field of international development and peace, while contributing to the work of the UN. UN University Volunteers can be deployed with a UN host entity within their country (national assignment) or abroad (international assignment).