"Volunteering is important to me as it gives me the satisfaction of rendering a service and making a difference in somebody's life. The good thing is that by volunteering not only do I share my knowledge and experiences with others but at the same time gain far more than I hoped. Volunteer work guided my choice for a profession. Since 1993 I have been working in humanitarian programmes in Africa with nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) and the UN", says Isata Carew, UNV volunteer from Sierra Leone.
"It is hard to say when exactly I started volunteering, since it was always part of my life. I remember that, in primary school, I was part of a group which organised raffle draws and sales to raise funds then used for a school for the blind and deaf, and an elderly home.
At university I was involved in the work of student associations and in an organisation aiming to empower African women by promoting girls' education. During my postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom, I volunteered with a women's aid organisation assisting victims of gender based violence.
As a Return, Reintegration and Recovery (RRR) Officer, I work on the humanitarian side of UNMIS, assisting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and returnees; Sudanese nationals who fled during the civil war and are returning to Bor and the Jonglei state, where I am based.
My work also involves the coordination of returnee activities in Jonglei, to establish a better flow of the humanitarian assistance in the state. This involves dealing with Government ministries, UN agencies, international and national NGOs and community based organisations.
I work closely with national counterparts in programmes aimed to strengthen the capacity of the Southern Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) to develop sustainable solutions for the returns and the reintegration of returnees. Based on my experience, I can provide guidance on the reception of returnees, information collection, analysis and management of reintegration policies and programming.
The volume and complexity of the work, the insecure environment and the remoteness of locations we go to on field missions are some of the greatest challenges. I get strength to continue especially when I see that some people who had depended on food aid for most of their life in refugee or IDP camps are now adjusting to normal life: building their own huts, engaging in agriculture and even advocating for better schools for their children to gain education.