Celebrating International Volunteer Day (IVD) and the Tenth Anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers (IYV+10) in Rwanda

Dec 4, 2011

UNV and RDI Volunteers pose proudly in front of the house they helped build on IVD 2011

Kigali,  4th   December,  2011  –  It  has  been  ten  years  ever  since  the  first  celebration  of  the International Year of Volunteers, which recognized the valuable contribution of voluntary action in addressing global issues. In 2008, through Resolution 63/153, the United Nations General Assembly called for this anniversary to be marked across the planet as IYV+10.

Through the celebration of IYV+10, the wide range of stakeholders and partners from civil society, governments and the UN System aimed: (1) To recognize the positive impacts of volunteerism; (2) To promote the values of volunteerism; (3) To build and reinforce volunteerism networks; and (4) To  facilitate  people’s  contributions  to  peace  and  the  Millennium  Development  Goals  (MDGs) through volunteerism.

The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Programme was designated as the focal point for IYV+10 in Rwanda and embraced wholeheartedly this campaign in a country renowned for its culture of volunteerism. The main objective of the IYV+10 campaign and celebration in Rwanda was to help recognize the role of the traditional forms of volunteerism in promoting peace and in supporting development   in  the  country  while  reinvigorating   the  spirit  of  volunteerism   and  enhancing  its contribution to the achievement of the MDGs.

As  a  way  of  implementing   the  objectives   of  the  IYV+10  campaign   and  of  coordinating   its celebrations in Rwanda, a National Committee was established in June 2011. This Committee comprised  Government   Ministries,  civil  society  organizations,   UN  agencies,   international   and national volunteering. The lead was taken by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture (MIJESPOC) and the UNV Programme.

In this context, the theme chosen for this year’s International Volunteer Day (IVD) was “Volunteering matters”, thereby echoing the objectives of IYV+10. Under this motto, IVD 2011 intended to show that  volunteering  matters  because  volunteers  have  the  power  to change  lives:  they  build  social cohesion,  enhance civic participation,  mitigate conflict and contribute to a society’s well-being.  To mark IVD 2011 and within the framework of IYV+10, the UNV Programme in Rwanda, in close partnership with the Government and other volunteer stakeholders  of the National Committee, has taken the lead in implementing the following activities.

1. National Volunteer Activity

Rwanda has a long tradition of volunteerism and volunteers have often been involved in community activities  in line with the MDGs.  To promote  and ensure  recognition  for this volunteer  culture,  a symbolic  volunteer  activity  was  organized  on  4th   December  2011  by  RDI  (Rural  Development Initiative), a students’ volunteer club, with the support of UNV and UNDP.
With good mood and high spirit, several UNV Volunteers  joined  hands  for several  hours  with RDI volunteers and local residents to construct a house for a homeless widow and mother of four children in one of the rural parts of Kigali. This woman and her children had been homeless, as they  could  not  afford  to  buy  or  construct  their own  shelter.  The  RDI  volunteers  had  selected this   woman’s   family   to  be   helped   with   the village’s  head  approval.  This  activity  aimed  to serve as a public testimony of volunteer commitment and effort and as a way to highlight and raise the profile of volunteerism in Rwanda.

2. Launch of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report

On 5th December 2011, the actual date of the International Volunteer Day, the UNV Programme presented the first ever State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR), which was also launched at the UN General  Assembly  in New  York  and in over 70 countries  worldwide.  In Rwanda,  the SWVR launch was hosted by the Ministry of Youth Sports and Culture, which holds the mandate for the promotion of volunteerism in Rwanda. The event was attended by Government officials, representatives  of volunteer-involving  organizations  (VIOs), volunteers  and representatives  of the media.

The State of the World’s Volunteerism Report offers both information and advocacy for the role and contribution of volunteerism in peace and development. It promotes a better understanding of volunteerism by demonstrating its universality, scope and reach and by discussing new trends in volunteerism in the twenty-first century. The Report examines important contributions of volunteers in diverse fields – such as sustainable livelihoods, social inclusion, social cohesion and disaster risk reduction – through concrete examples taken from Rwanda and other countries.

The   SWVR   is   expected   to  enhance   recognition,   facilitation,   networking   and   promotion   of volunteerism,  in accordance  with the objectives  of IYV+10.  The Report  will help volunteerism  to move into a new era in which its true dimensions and significance are integrated into the general discourse  on  global  issues.  It  is  anticipated  that  SWVR  and  successor  reports  will  result  in fundamental   changes.  These  will  affect  the  perception,  discussion,  research  and  practice  of volunteerism in the future.

Mr. Ivan Dielens,  UNV Programme  Officer  in Rwanda,  made  a presentation  of the Report  after which,  along  with  representatives  from  government,  VIOs  led  an  interesting  panel  discussion reflecting the role of volunteerism  towards addressing global issues. In the presence of public and private  media,  discussions  by partners  showcased  the role played  by volunteers  in accelerating Rwanda’s development and the achievement of the MDGs.

 Guests of Honour, Hon. Minister of Youth, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, and UN Resident Coordinator, Aurélien Agbenonci, pose with the participants in the National Conference on Volunteerism in Kigali on 12th Dec 2011

3. National Conference on Volunteerism

“Volunteering Matters: Recognizing and Enhancing the Contribution of Volunteers to Peace and Development in Rwanda” was the theme chosen for the celebration of the national conference on volunteerism which took place in Kigali from 12th  to13th  December 2011. Organized by the National Committee for IYV+10, the conference gathered about 130 local and international volunteers from all over the country, and various stakeholders relevant to volunteerism, with the aim of reflecting on achievements and the way forward for volunteerism for peace and development in Rwanda. The organization of the conference was supported, in the spirit of the Delivering as One, by UNDP and UNFPA.

The main objective of the conference was, building on the 4 pillars of the IYV+10 Campaign (Recognition,  Promotion, Networking,  Facilitation),  to acknowledge  the contribution of volunteerism to peace and development in Rwanda, support the drafting of the National Policy and Strategy on Volunteerism with recommendations from volunteers themselves, and contribute to the increased integration of volunteerism into the discussions and plans for Rwanda’s development.

In line with this objective, the sharing and exchange of experiences through discussions and presentations on volunteerism dominated  the conference  agenda, after which participants worked on coming up with recommendations on ways to improve the recognition, promotion,  networking  and  facilitation of volunteerism in Rwanda.

The opening of the conference benefitted from the presence of Hon. Minister of Youth, Jean Philbert Nsengimana, and the UN Resident Coordinator, Aurélien Agbenonci, who both  commended  the  role  of volunteers in Rwanda’s development and peace.

The Conference was marked by various insightful presentations and benefitted, in particular, from several  present  opportunities  related  to  volunteerism  in  Rwanda  and  globally,  that  fed  into  the reflection of the participants:

I.     The launch of the SWVR (see above).

II.         A recently conducted  survey carried out by a coalition of NGOs (YES Rwanda, Young Women Christian Association, CREDI and Strive Foundation Rwanda) which provides valuable information in terms of the magnitude and nature of volunteerism in Rwanda.

III.        A draft National Policy and Strategy on Volunteerism which is currently being developed by a team  of consultants  under  the  leadership  of the Joint  Youth  Programme  of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture – a programme implemented by the government of Rwanda with the support of the One UN.

Globally,  the  conference  gave  the  opportunity  to  present  and  discuss  these  various  volunteer initiatives  and share  experiences  with  a larger  audience  of volunteer  stakeholders  – from  policy makers to the grassroots level volunteers. In particular, it provided an occasion to hear and take into account these volunteers’ perspectives into the drafting of the National Policy and Strategy on Volunteerism, contributing to make the document more inclusive and participative. Indeed, group discussions by the conference participants were intense and productive, ending up with a list of recommendations  such as “create  volunteer  clubs  with school-age  children  beginning  in primary school, establish national organization to coordinate volunteer activities, organize conferences and trainings to build volunteers’ capacity, clear mapping of volunteering organizations (provides opportunities  to get involved),  change  the mindset  of volunteerism  and who can be a volunteer, create pride about being a volunteer, recognize the psychosocial  benefits” which were outlined in the presence of the consultants responsible for the drafting of the National Policy and Strategy on Volunteerism.

Finally, with the aim of promoting and recognizing the indispensable role played by volunteers in the development of Rwanda, the conference also provided the setting for celebrating the winners of the Volunteers of the Year Awards through a ceremony attended by all the conference participants.

4. Volunteer of the Year Awards

The award scheme focused on celebrating the success and commitment of volunteers to working towards the MDGs. The scheme provided the opportunity for volunteers to showcase the amazing work they do and how they contribute to Rwanda’s development.

Fourteen winners including students, community health workers and volunteer groups from all over the country, whose volunteering has had an impact on selected MDGs, were awarded. For the first time in Rwanda, volunteers committed to different development goals were awarded in an event that
also celebrated  the tenth anniversary  of the International  Year  of Volunteers.  These  awards  are expected to promote volunteering and raise awareness of volunteer activity in Rwanda.

Talking to some of the Volunteer of the Year Awards winners, this is what they had to say:

Rusatsi John from Rubavu district, Western Province: “I have been doing volunteer work for over 7 years; most of which included helping Orphans and Vulnerable  Children to access education.  It’s been unusual that I have been called on for recognition. I am not only excited but also feel motivated to work harder. Thank you for organizing this event with the awards.”

Mukamunana Jeanette, with over 5 years of volunteer experience as a Community Health Worker in Rwamagana district, Eastern Province:”I am happy to be one of the winners and thank you for considering  my  work  valuable.  I  know  with  these  awards,  I  am  sure  many  will  be  inspired  to volunteer improving health and living conditions in my district. Thank you.”

For  volunteerism’s   full  potential   to  be  realized,   more   conducive   policies   are  needed,   and organizations need to advocate for the key role volunteer action has in attaining sustainable development”

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