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