Promoting Volunteerism: Journey from Japan to Barbados

Mar 15, 2017

The altruistic nature of volunteerism is the strength which drives and sustains the success of the United Nations Volunteer, and Youth Volunteer, (UNV, UNYV) Programmes. Through a dual mission of 1) Promoting volunteerism and 2) mobilizing volunteers, UNVs work toward creating environments where volunteering can be used as a direct mechanism to promote: humanitarian acts; poverty reduction schemes; sustainable development and climate change awareness. Irrespective of the sector supported by UNVs, the common thread which permeates across the UNV system is the belief that their contribution through volunteerism positively affects the world and the citizens of this globe.

In an effort to expand the United Nations Volunteer system, the UN recognized that the essence of volunteering does not commence in adulthood and actively engaged youth in volunteering in 1976 when the General Assembly adopted resolution A/Res/31/131. This mandated the UNV to promote and advance the role of youth in development through volunteerism.

Appreciating the importance of volunteerism, and more importantly youth volunteers, the UNDP Barbados and the OECS attained their first Japanese UNYV in October 2016.

Sae Nishioka began her journey to Barbados in 2016 when she penned an essay describing her motive for aspiring to work within the United Nations System. Like most of UN’s volunteers, Sae views herself as an agent of change who “believes in helping people”. During her 5 month assignment, Sae ensured that she fully utilized her time in Barbados. On December 3, Sae took to the streets of Barbados to endorse and encourage Barbadians to participate in various acts of volunteerism in celebration of International Volunteer Day, celebrated on December 5. Through the distribution of bookmarks designed with the theme of this year “Global Applause”, Sae approached both young and old to inspire them to change the world through volunteerism.  

In addition, Sae visited West Terrace Primary School in St. James, Barbados where she presented to 10 year old students on her journey to becoming a UNYV, her past experiences volunteering and informing the class on the importance of volunteering. The students were very receptive to Sae and enthusiastic about her visit with many questions asked by the young children. The highlight of the day was when a young boy asked “is this something I can do now?”, showing his enthusiam not only for volunteering, but voluteering with the UN.

The Rotary Club of Barbados in coordination with the UNDP Barbados and OECS, hosted Sae at their Model UN conference where she took time to inform these aspiring agents of change about the international UN university Volunteer programme. Describing to the high school students her journey and her motive for becoming a UN Volunteer, Sae encouraged the students to not only approach development through academia, but active participation through volunteerism is also a great path to utilize. While Sae’s primary reason for accepting this position was to contribute to peace and development through volunteerism, during her stint in Barbados however, Sae gained a thorough understanding of how volunteering can directly contribute to society.

Sae’s task of engaging with the youth of Barbados concluded with her final presentation at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. Appealing to the Faculty of Law, the Law Society is seen here as they receive a short lesson on the importance of youth volunteerism as well as receiving a brief introduction to the Sustainable Development Goals.

Sae took this opportunity to be a little more interactive with the students. Introducing them to the UNV online volunteering services, the students are guided through an exercise in which the youth was shown how to employ social media as a tool to promote sustainable development both locally and abroad.

Although Sae was unsure of what her role as a Communication Assistant would bring her as she travelled to the Caribbean for the first time in 2016, her dedication to assisting people and contributing to global development in any facet was the only sure thing for Sae. Despite the uncertainty however, this experience has been life changing Sae stated. Travelling to various islands, including Grenada and Jamaica, Sae witnessed firsthand what some of the projects undertaken by the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership were aiming to address. It was also observed that amongst the youth, the atmosphere for volunteerism is vibrant with many young people recognizing the role volunteering can play in orchestrating change. With a deeper understanding of the unique situation Smalls Islands Developing States (SIDS) are in, in terms of development, Sae has said her desire to work within international organizations has been reinforced.

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