05 December is International Volunteer Day, and every year we recognize the invaluable contributions of volunteering .
Volunteerism is offering not only a chance to contribute to social development and a sense of self-worth, it also provides them with priceless lessons that sets them up for entering the job market and setting a foundation for their career.
The United Nations Volunteer programe has for many years delivered social services across a range of sectors. Today, the UNV Kenya programe remains one of largest UNV operations in the world, with 148 national and 47 International serving UN Volunteers. Kenya also contributes the largest number of UN Volunteers serving abroad, a testimony to the country’s commitment to humanitarian action and development.
Consider this. George Gachie has been serving as a national United Nations Volunteer (UNV) with UN-Habitat for over three years. He grew up in the Kibera Slums – a challenging environment, where young people have very few opportunities and early pregnancy, school dropout, organized gangs, crime, diseases and drug abuse are common. In order to make it out of this situation one had to be smart. But as George himself put it during a recent UNV Blue-Room Talks event in Nairobi, ‘I am happy because it is volunteerism that got me out of the situation’..
Studies show that engaging in volunteerism from a young age helps people take their first steps towards long-term involvement in development. It is thus a perfect avenue to address the oft-repeated lament by corporate employers that the education system does not prepare students for the job market.
In that sense, volunteering is not just a way to get more numbers to ‘get the job done’, but a transformativa opportunity for people from all walks of life, and a two-way exchange between the volunteer and the people they work with. By creating a sense of cohesion, reciprocity and solidarity within society, volunteering builds social capital, because it converts individual action into collective response directed towards a social end.
Volunteering also makes a significant economic contribution globally. It’s generally estimated that volunteers contribute an average of $400 billion to the global economy annually.UNDP’s Administrator estimated that volunteers contribute an average of $400 billion to the global economy annually. ” the tremendous impact UN Volunteers are making within the UN system. In implementing the SDGs, UNDP will continue to see volunteers as catalysts for change who amplify citizens’ voices and facilitate participation so that development can be truly people-centered”.
The impact of a volunteerism programme must be felt at the local level by building the capacity of people, including the marginalized, and should make the governance process more participatory and inclusive.
UNV has a strong track record of getting development results. In Kenya, UNV supported a neighborhood volunteer scheme to help ensure peaceful elections in 2013.
UN volunteers, including data analysts, planners, legal assistants and communication experts are deployed in 35 out of the 47 counties in the country, bringing critical capacity to the devolution process in Kenya.
On the occasion of this year’s International Volunteer Day, the UN is committed to working with the Kenyan Government to integrate the concepts of volunteerism into development programming.
This can be done through various modalities, including facilitating volunteer schemes that target the contributions or integration of particular groups. Another area that holds great potential in advancing the