Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan believes that volunteerism is fundamental to the United Nations:
“At the heart of volunteerism are the ideals of service and solidarity and the belief that together we can make the world a better place. In that sense, we can say that volunteerism is the ultimate expression of what the United Nations is all about."
Isaac Abuaku-Ameyaw of Ghana is on assignment in Sudan, with the UN Police and was deployed to Torit, as Correction Advisor to the Torit County Prison. His main role there was the training, mentoring and advising of the prison’s staff, the majority ex-combatants, in best practices: prison administration, human rights, treatment of prisoners, all in connection with local stakeholders. The Torit County Prison has about 200 prisoners, male and female. A special approach in the training is given to vulnerable prisoners, juvenile, female and children with mothers.
His passion for the work at the County Prison captured the attention of three UN Police colleagues in the Torit team site, Jan Harm Schepers, Diederick Stoffers and Catharina Gerrits, Police Advisors from the Netherlands who visited the prison together with Isaac.
After several visits to the prison, one of the things they noticed was that the only educational and recreational area the prisoners could use was an improvised shakyshelter. Jan was the one who proposed to his colleagues to help the prison build a better space for the prisoners to use.
The Police Advisors then got the prison’s administration on board, engaged the prisoners in the preparation work, designed the project for the structure, bought the materials and helped build it together with some of the prisoners and local carpenters.
After a weeks work the building was finished and as a result the prisoners from Torit now have a new assembly area for in-mates education activities such as literacy and family life programmes as well as for recreation and church activities.
“As personnel of the UN, so much is expected of us” explains Isaac “and projects like this show that we identify ourselves with the local problems and create good will with the community”.
During their 6 months mission to Sudan, the three Dutch Police Advisors volunteer initiatives were not limited to activities with the county prison. They also worked with a Women’s Association, a community based organisation, for the empowerment of women. “We organised workshops to try to make women more aware of their rights and their position in the society, giving them a picture of international standards regarding the role of women” says Diederick.
The four of them recently ended their mission in Torit but left a legacy behind, not only for the community, but also to their UN colleagues. “We decided to undertake the project trying to make a difference. We wanted to do something more, outside of the UN Police duties we were here to do. It is within the reach of all of us who come to Sudan to go the extra mile and contribute for the betterment of the people of this country” concludes Jan Schepers.