In honour of this year’s International Volunteers Day (IVD), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) today celebrated and recognized more than 20 volunteers for their exemplary performance and dedication in building strong communities across the country through volunteerism.
Under the theme: “Volunteer now for our common future,” this year’s IVD was special because the UN Volunteers (UNV) programme turned 50 years.
“We are lucky to have the volunteer programme. UN agencies and programmes benefit a lot from thousands of UN Volunteers’ expertise and inspiration from a wide range of skills and expertise. 80% of these volunteers are from the global south, where development is most needed,” said Walid Badawi, the Resident Representative at UNDP Kenya.
“In Kenya, we have more than 400 UN Volunteers supporting a wide range of programmes that directly benefit the people of Kenya,”
For its 50th anniversary, the UNV programme is celebrating volunteers across the world through national volunteer Awards. Kenya was one of the countries selected to host the Awards under the Volunteer of the Year Awards (VOYA). The volunteers from the UN, the civil society, the community, and different networks were selected from the following four thematic categories:
- Community engagement: Volunteers who were able to reach under-served communities at the community level and meaningfully engaged and created opportunities for the community members.
- Empowerment and gender inclusion: Volunteers who helped mainstream gender issues and contributed to the empowerment of marginalized groups (including people with disabilities etc.) to show how volunteering can help to reduce inequality gaps.
- Climate action: Volunteers who helped tackle climate change issues and particularly helped local communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.
- COVID-19 response: Volunteers who supported the COVID-19 response efforts by the Kenya Government.
Additionally, UN Volunteers from the following categories were recognized: UN Community Volunteers, UN Refugee Volunteers, UN Youth Volunteer and UN Specialist Volunteers.
“I am extremely humbled and honoured to have received this award. I have been serving with UNDP Kenya for the last two years and it has been a great experience giving back to this beautiful country, Kenya,” said Christabel Chanda, UN Volunteer with UNDP Kenya and one of the Awardees who was recognized as the UN Specialist Volunteer of the Year Award.
Key participants during the Award included Kivutha Kibwana, Makueni County Governor,
Mr. Nelson Marwa, Principal Secretary at the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, Senior Citizen Affairs and Special Programmes, Mr. Walid Badawi, UNDP Resident Representative, Ms. Lucy Ndungu – UNV Regional Manager, Ms. Jean Lokenga, UNICEF Kenya County Deputy Director, Ms. Damaris Mungai, Gender and Youth Coordination Officer (representing UNEP Africa Regional Director), Ms. Sophie Onyango, Safaricom Foundation and Dr. John Ireri from the University of Nairobi.
During the peak of COVID-19 last year, through a Joint Devolution Programme by UNDP, UNICEF and UN Women, the UN recruited 50 United Nations Volunteer health workers and deployed them to 14 counties to directly support the Kenya Government COVID-19 response. Others were directly recruited into the National Joint COVID-19 Response Programme and embedded in the Ministry of Health and other core Government institutions. They helped in communicating about COVID-19, combating fake news, promoting healthy community practice and behaviour change as well as working closely with communities to protect them from getting infected.
“I believe there is already a lot that the government of Kenya is doing to recognize and integrate volunteering. Kenya is one of the countries in the world that has a national volunteering policy in place and is currently in the process of formulating a national volunteerism law to help advance the ideals of volunteering in the country. We need to have more institutionalization of volunteerism and to foster a culture of supporting and protecting people who chose this noble course of volunteering,” added Mr. Badawi.
Through the Awards, it is expected that the culture of volunteering will increasingly become integrated into government and institutional policies and practice in the country towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and building better communities.