Volunteering is a package, not a specialization. The unique places and peoples and the challenges as well the fulfillment that one receives while volunteering are a roller coaster. But the one thing that stands out most is the sense of inner fulfillment that comes with the knowledge that a volunteer is contributing towards a better world, towards peace and development. The experience of Ebrima Touray, a Gambian national who has been a United Nations Volunteer for World Food Programme sums up the journey experienced by many UN volunteers every year.
“When I was born several years ago in a village called Mandinary in West Coast Region of The Gambia, I did not know that one day I would volunteer for the United Nations.
I was selected as a National United Nations Volunteer in July 2012 and was attached to WFP as the host agency. My duty station was Mansakonko in Lower River Region of The Gambia. This assignment has given me a wealth of experience in community work. The time I spent in the field made me more acutely aware of the challenges rural communities face in The Gambia: problems ranging from food shortage, health issues, inadequate housing, challenges in providing children with adequate education and a host of other problems hampering the lives of the communities. Although our contribution has not brought the problems to an end, it has improved the nutrition and health of many community members.
As a National United Nations Volunteer, I visited all World Food Programme (WFP) supported activities in my region during food distribution - to monitor the process. The process included, General Food Distribution(GFD), Blanket Supplementary Feeding(BSF), and monitoring the nutrition of People Living With HIV and AIDS (PLWHA). I also took an active part in assessing disaster victims affected by flood and windstorm in my region. The information collected enabled Government and Agencies to help affected communities, particularly women and children.
I am doing some positive things to change people’s lives and their standard of living and I find that immensely rewarding. It is heartbreaking to see the challenges that the communities go through but it is a message of hope to see that beyond the humanitarian interventions, government and donors are seeking sustainable solutions to the problem.”
United Nations Volunteers in The Gambia are volunteering with the Ministry of Agriculture.They are also involved in programmes with a goal of reducing child and maternal mortality rates and carrying out advocacy for children, youth and marginalized groups. In addition, United Nations Volunteers are strengthening capacity in monitoring and evaluation of national programmes and strengthening government institutions. This is in line with the UNV strategy of contributing towards global peace and development through advocacy, integration and mobilization of volunteers. As Ebrima Touray sums up,
“Volunteerism is a precious resource I will forever cherish! I will always dedicate part of my time to engage in voluntary services.”