It was all joy in August 2018 when I received an email that I had been selected as a United Nations Volunteer; I would be serving as a Public Information Officer with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). The excitement was palpable!
I had been looking forward to working abroad and then out of the blue came this wonderful opportunity to volunteer in South Sudan – a nation with a chequered history, but with such huge potential. I didn’t expect it to be so sudden.
Immediately, I started reading about the country, the geopolitical nuances, and my role.
It is on the ground, in their local communities, that we really see the unique impact of volunteers.
For example, UN Volunteers are facilitating the local integration of Syrian asylum-seekers in Armenia, including those who themselves have escaped the conflict.
While in Afghanistan, UN Volunteers have brought together youth and religious leaders in dialogue on gender equality, exemplifying the power of volunteerism in bringing communities together, giving voice to marginalized groups and weaving a stronger social fabric.
Nurturing local volunteerism is a valuable way to bring unheard opinions, and know-how to the table, and helps to weave and strengthen the social fabric of all societies. --Achim Steiner, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, IVD 2018
Not only are volunteers on the front lines in their own communities during hard times, but groups of local volunteers build strength to cope with future crisis. This is because volunteering makes it possible for people to self-organize, share information and respond to shocks and stresses quickly.
In West and Central Africa, IVD is celebrated in all 24 countries by governments, civil society, non-governmental organizations and the UN system.
This year’s theme, "Volunteers build resilient communities", focuses on the values of volunteerism through the appreciation of local volunteers (including the marginalized groups and women, who make up nearly 60 per cent of volunteers worldwide) and their impact on building a resilient community.
International Volunteer Day (IVD), mandated by the UN General Assembly, is marked annually on 5 December. It provides volunteers and organizations with the opportunity to promote their contributions to development at the local, national and international levels. This year’s theme, "Volunteers Build Resilient Communities", celebrates volunteers who improve the resilience of communities in the face of natural disasters, economic stresses and political shocks.
The celebrations started in Ecuador, with the Regional Launch of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) 2018, along with FLACSO and local Governmental and civil society organizations.
Among those, there are more than 9 million equivalent full-time volunteers in the Arab States. A region which is not only home to fragile ecosystems, extreme weather and subject to natural disasters – such as catastrophic droughts and floods – but have also been witnessing armed conflicts that increased the pressure on societies and local communities, driving millions into forced displacement and food insecurity.