International Volunteer Day: volunteering in support of sustainable development
Each year, the ‘International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development’ is held on 5 December. To mark the occasion, we take a look back at our participatory campaign #MissionResponsible which showcased the voluntary work of Germany-Alumni around the world.
Proclaimed by the United Nations in 1985, and first celebrated in 1986, the ‘International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development’ – or ‘International Volunteer Day’ for short – has been celebrated ever since on 5 December.
In 2015, International Volunteer Day (IVD) will examine the extent to which volunteering can contribute to achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals. Volunteers can influence governments and communities, motivating and mobilising them to put the global agenda for sustainable development into effect at all levels. It is to this end that the International Volunteer Day raises the profile of the people who commit their time, energy and skills for the sake of a better world.
#MissionResponsible showcases the voluntary work of Germany-Alumni
In June 2015, with our participatory campaign #MissionResponsible, we invited all the members of the Alumniportal to show what they are doing to improve the way we live together and to promote a more sustainable future. Germany-Alumni could enter their charitable projects and win a prize of 300 euros to support that project. A jury selected eight finalists from the nearly 50 entries submitted, and the three main winners were then chosen in an online vote.
The largest number of votes went to a project for socially disadvantaged families in rural areas of the Dominican Republic. This was followed by a recycling initiative in Uzbekistan and an integration programme for refugees run by students in Germany. On the occasion of International Volunteer Day, we asked the three winners to tell us how their projects are progressing and what they have used their prize money for.
1st place: Rosaleda Reynoso on ‘Casita para la vida’ in the Dominican Republic
‘Casita para la vida’ is an initiative to build an adequate living space for families in deprived rural areas of the Dominican Republic. These families mainly consist of women and a large number of children. For our team, it is important that the older children take part in the construction process themselves, as this lets us share our knowledge and technical skills with them – through learning -by-doing. In this way, we try to help them escape the poverty trap.
With the prize money, we decided to buy materials and tools to build a small kitchen, with walls made of concrete blocks, as well as a concrete ceiling, cement floor and a tin roof. This kitchen can provide refuge for the family in case there is a hurricane.
Our team worked on a voluntary basis and they paid their own travel costs to reach the project site. The site is in Mata Mamón, about 45 kilometres away from Santo Domingo city. The families know that we are volunteering to help them, and that they can also have a say in the design of the house as well as the building materials, floorplan and painting. That makes them happy and grateful.
Picture gallery: ‘Casita para la vida’. What became of the prize money?
2nd place: Bakhrom Radjabov on the ‘Do-it-Yourself (DIY) Garbage Lab’ in Uzbekistan
We didn’t need much money for this incredibly environmentally friendly, innovative project! All we needed was garbage or anything we could reuse in an innovative way! So we used the prize money to buy nails, hammers, saws, paint and brushes that we could use to turn the waste into something bright and useful! With these tools, the ‘DIY Garbage Lab’ team will now be able to hold lots more DIY events in the future.
This time we decided to renovate a playground for the children in a local mahalla. We used old car tires and some wood that had been thrown out some time before, to make some colourful fences and small, kid-sized chairs and tables. ‘DIY Garbage Lab’ is not just an innovative project, it also engages with the volunteers to accomplish the project initiative. To renovate the children’s playground, the ‘DIY Garbage Lab’ volunteers worked with the inhabitants of the mahalla, who helped make the playground a nice place for kids. The most important thing for us was to demonstrate that being environmentally friendly and innovative, and willing to make a change (even a small one) is not a big deal. Anyone can do it, without a lot of funds, just by collaborating with friends or neighbours.
Picture gallery: ‘DIY Garbage Lab’. What became of the prize money?
3rd place: Evgenia Gavrilova on the student initiative ‘Cross Borders’ in Germany
For the refugee initiative ‘Cross Borders’, the 2015/16 winter term began well. Our promotional events (the cake stand, photo exhibition and introductory meeting) attracted plenty of volunteers, so after the semester break we are now well placed with a whole ‘new generation’ of teachers. It’s all the more pleasing, therefore, to be equipped now with our new collection of learning games, audio-books and other textbooks. The University library has even allocated a special section for ‘Cross Borders’, where we can store all these things.
More and more of our pupils now use the reading rooms for their own independent practice. They also have access to the ‘Cross Borders’ section, and they can improve their vocabulary using issues of ’Deutsch perfekt’, which has interesting articles in simple German, or the crime stories published by Langenscheidt. The new teaching materials we obtained by taking part in #MissionResponsible have given an extra impetus to our creativity, and we are already on the lookout for new teaching books, games or picture cards with which to make learning more pleasurable for our pupils.
Picture gallery: ‘Cross Borders’. What became of the prize money?
The participatory campaign #MissionResponsible was part of the Alumniportal Deutschland’s focus topic ‘initiate.participate.change.’ As with the International Volunteer Day, the purpose of the campaign was to draw attention to people and projects that are committed to social and ecological issues, either in their local neighbourhood or in a broader international context.
Volunteering as a driver of social change
The United Nations Volunteers programme (UNV) makes a contribution to peace and development through its international volunteer activities. UNV mobilises volunteers worldwide and encourages partners to incorporate volunteers into their development programmes, thereby improving the effectiveness of their projects.
In 2012, UNV started the campaign ‘Volunteer Action Counts’ as a way of raising the visibility of volunteer work, civil participation and civil society engagement. On the campaign website, volunteers and organisations can upload their stories, pictures and videos, in order to share with others their experiences of volunteering. This website also serves as a coordination platform for the International Volunteer Day.