Derek O'Rourke was about to finish his Masters in International Relations at the University of Seoul, Korea when a team from UNV Headquarters visited the university to do a presentation about the programme. This got him interested in UNV and he had the opportunity to speak to one of the recruiters.
During his Masters course, he had written a paper on the late 80s-early 90s humanitarian assistance Operation Lifeline Sudan and another one on Darfur for the Conflict Resolution and International Security modules. He was interested in Sudan.
"Civil Affairs was what I had in mind, but given my 15 years experience in hotel and restaurant management, I was proposed to be considered for a UNV assignment as a Facilities Management Assistant with UNMIS, for which professionals were greatly needed.
I accepted the assignment because of my initial interest in working in a post-conflict scenario and to be of some use in the rebuilding of people's futures in a time of peace. The way to do that is to roll up the sleeves, get on with it and show a good example to those around you. Along the way, I met like-minded people and experienced the UNV camaraderie while doing serious work."
Derek works in the General Services Section (GSS); he managed the UNMIS compound in Kadugli for a year and has been doing the same in Kauda, Southern Kordofan for the past 6 months.
"GSS would like to provide a very good service to the staff living in UN accommodation, but it's just not easy to deliver such a service given the remoteness of the location and availability of products.
My role is to try to make life as comfortable as possible for peacekeepers in the field; accommodation, offices, bathrooms, drinking water, waste management, leisure activities and so on. I also train the local staff in aspects of facilities management, such as cleaning and hygiene standards, maintaining occupancy and booking records, resource management and environmental awareness."
Throughout his assignment, Derek has been the driving engine behind the Southern Kordofan UNV group with which he initiated and supported volunteer activities with communities in Kadugli and neighbouring areas. The group promoted environmental awareness and community voluntary action through a clean-up campaign. They also collect used items from UN personnel leaving the mission and donate them to people in need. Periodically they visit a leprosy community on the outskirts of Kadugli.
"During a year of working on various projects in South Murta leprosy community, such as fitting tarpaulins on huts, supplying families with mosquito nets and drilling a second well for the village, South Kordofan UNVs worked together with military observers, UN police and local civilians. While I like to think that we, UNV volunteers, inspire the other personnel to such efforts, it was reciprocal: all those who volunteer outside of their UNMIS assignments are an inspiration for all of us."