“Young.Global.Active….you are role models, you are volunteers”
UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Claire Van der Vaeren
On 10th September, over 750 national and international volunteers from all over Cambodia joined together to participate in the 4th National Forum on Volunteerism, an event jointly organized by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MoEYS) and the Cambodia Volunteering Network (VolCam) members. The volunteers met to share their experiences, discuss issues related to volunteerism and how they can contribute to the future of Cambodia’s development.
Active engagement by volunteers was a key message of the event; creating positive role models for youth through volunteerism was conveyed through the Forum’s motto “Be a role model, be a volunteer!” in line with the global theme: “Young. Global. Active.”
UN Resident Coordinator, Ms. Claire Van der Vaeren, in her opening speech, stressed the importance of volunteers for development, noting that the actions of the volunteers count and that they are the “agents of change”. In particular, Ms Van der Vaeren focused on Cambodia, observing that two thirds of Cambodians are under the age of 35; to the volunteers she declared “you are the future”. Mr. Shaun Ellmers, First Secretary of Development Cooperation of the Australian Embassy, also spoke about the importance of volunteerism, notably its affect on his career “I have been a volunteer in Australia and abroad and I credit these experiences in helping me with the position I hold today”.
What does Volunteerism mean to you?
The Forum began with an interactive discussion between H.E. Tauch Choeun, Director General, General Department of Youth, MoEYS, Isabelle Devylder, UNV Programme Officer and the participants on the current status of volunteerism in Cambodia. The “What is new in volunteering?” session included an update on volunteerism in Cambodia and the National Youth Action Plan which has listed volunteerism as one of its priorities. The session also saw the launch of VolCam’s Volunteerism Caravan. Inspired by a similar activity organized in Tunisia as part of the Arab Youth Volunteering for a Better Future project, the Volunteerism Caravan was established to broaden the scope of the Recognize me! Campaign. The Caravan will take place in the upcoming months all over Cambodia, building networks of volunteers, inspiring young men and women to take part in the development of their country in addition to gathering data on the current status of volunteerism in Cambodia.
Following the launch of the Volunteerism Caravan, the volunteers participated in group work, discussing key issues relating to volunteerism. One volunteer, when asked about misperceptions surrounding volunteerism said “don’t judge a book by its cover, because I am young and a volunteer, people often think I am not qualified. That is not true”.
“Challenge yourself to change the world!” encouraged Matt Prescott, VSO, one of six “Volunteer Stars” from different volunteering sectors that were chosen to present to the Forum about their volunteering achievements. “I discovered that there were more important things to life other than making money. Volunteering has changed my life,” he said. The inspiring speeches and videos from the community and university volunteers showed the participants how diverse the volunteering sector is with multiple benefits both professionally and personally.
Another initiative closely linked with volunteerism, Partners for Prevention (P4P), was highlighted during the Forum, as volunteerism is specifically part of the project as a mechanism to support the end of gender-based violence. P4P is a regional joint programme between UNDP, UNFPA, UN Women and UNV aimed at preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG) in Asia and the Pacific, and in promoting and implementing more effective violence prevention programmes and policies.
The National Forum included a brainstorming session inviting participants to reflect on how volunteering will continue playing a meaningful role in the Post-2015 context.
UN Youth Volunteer Peter Prix introduced the roadmap that is leading to the elaboration of the post-2015 development agenda and highlighted the importance of the consultations in gathering data around the world in order to elaborate the future Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Two UN Youth Advisory Panel members Kimlay Leav and Sinoun Hun presented the findings of the Dialogues held in Cambodia, both in terms of the priorities identified for the country and recommendations for means of implementation through Partnerships with Civil Society.
The enthusiastic participants provided numerous examples demonstrating how volunteers are already contributing to the five priority areas identified for Cambodia in the Post-2015 context (health, education, employment, environment and economic growth). A number of recommendations were also made to ensure that volunteerism can continue being an important means of actively engaging people for the implementation of the SDG:
– Information sharing on volunteer opportunities and on issues related to the 5 priority areas should be improved;
– increased recognition both by the authorities and the general public of the contribution volunteers make to development (through recognition/accreditation programme and thanks to awareness raising campaigns that can explain why volunteering is an important act of solidarity for the society);
– increased access to financial resources and facilities to organize volunteering activities, in particular at the community level;
– facilitate opportunities for exchanges between the government, communities and volunteers to build trust for sustainable and inclusive partnership.
How to volunteer?
The volunteers had the opportunity to closely engage with representatives of over 10 national and international volunteer organizations, to talk to experienced volunteers and find out more about benefits of volunteering and its great impact. The volunteers were also treated to a brilliant performance by Tiny Toones a local dance group supporting children’s education and an evening concert by the talented musician Kong Nay.
The 4th National Forum on Volunteerism was not only an interesting and informational event, it also allowed volunteers from different organizations and districts to network and get to know each other as well as discuss issues that affect themselves as volunteers and Cambodia directly.