The International Year of Volunteers (IYV) was first celebrated in 2001. It played an important role in raising worldwide awareness about the contributions of volunteerism and strengthened approaches at the national level to recognize and support voluntary action. To sustain and extend these achievements, the United Nations General Assembly called for the tenth anniversary of the IYV to be marked in 2011 (IYV+10). The United Nations Volunteer (UNV) programme is designated as the focal point for catalyzing further action at global, national and regional levels.
Aisha Raffay joined the national UNV programme in March 2011 as National Coordinator for Marking the IYV+10. Her main responsibility is to coordinate the activities that help realize the objectives of the IYV+10 in Sudan. “Stakeholder mobilization is the key to our success. To make participation as inclusive as possible we are partnering with the government, civil society organizations, businesses and academic institutions. Additionally we are counting on the support from UN Volunteers, UN missions and agencies.”
One of the priorities is to support existing or establish new national volunteering coordination structures in order to strengthen and reinforce volunteer networks. “Ownership on the national level is very important to guarantee the sustainability of our efforts beyond 2011. We are currently working together with the Humanitarian Aid Commission (HAC) to reform a National Committee to represent all stakeholders and to steer the implementation of a common national programme for the IYV+10 and beyond in Sudan.”
Before joining the national UNV programme, Aisha worked for many years in the volunteer sector in Sudan and in particular the Environmentalists Society. “It is a great experience to see how you can make things happen”. The Environmentalists Society is one of the many organizations in Sudan where the entire staff works on a voluntary basis and programs are fully self-funded. “We all chipped in money to support local communities and to raise awareness on environmental protection”. More than 400 volunteers are registered as active members of the society.
“Volunteerism is an integral part of Sudanese culture but many people are not aware of the contributions it can make. This is something I want to change”. Apart from the lack of recognition, the volunteer sector in Sudan faces a number of other difficulties in areas such as capacity, strategy, financing and volunteer legislation. “My hope is that the IYV+10 will enable the volunteer sector in Sudan to overcome these shortcomings.”
Recently Aisha attended an IYV+10 Regional Consultation Meeting in Ankara organized by the UNV programme Headquarters where participants were given the opportunity to share their experiences and strengthen regional networks. Further meetings were held in Ecuador, the Philippines and Senegal to develop regional recommendations and build worldwide momentum for the IYV+10.
In December the UNV programme will launch the first State of the World Volunteerism Report. The report is expected to present an alternative vision regarding what volunteerism is and why it is important. Two plenary sessions of the United Nations General Assembly will be held to follow up on the IYV+10.
“I am excited about the activities ahead. One of our main target groups is youth, we are hoping to mobilize many young people and engage them in voluntary work. To increase the impact and develop their capacity we need the support of qualified and experienced resource persons. Anybody who is interested in joining our efforts is welcome anytime.”
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More information about volunteerism: www.worldvolunteerweb.org