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The celebrations of International Volunteering Day 2019, IVD 2019 that, like every year are held on the 5th of December, offered a blueprint on how to foster collaborations, synergies to create awareness about the important role volunteers play in the society.

Celebrations could also be leveraged as a catalyst to further bring about new partnerships among all the stakeholders engaged in Nepal in the quest of promoting volunteerism. Here few suggestions from IVD 2019 and one proposition for the future.

Coordination is key: Under the banner of the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, United Nations Volunteer, UNV, brought together all the stakeholders, partnering for example with the National Youth Council, the government body mandated to support the development of youth, and with national and international NGOs, including RUNVAN, the organization of ex UNV volunteers and students from different colleges.

One common official program and many partnerships: each stakeholder had the chance to include its own program in the official schedules of IVD 2019. For example AIESEC, the global student association, organized an “Action for SDGs 2019” an action festival to promote innovative concepts to achieve the SDGs. The National Youth Council, who played an important role throughout the celebrations, took the lead to partner with the International Nepalese Blood Donors Association for a blood donation in the premise of the Kirtipur Cricket Stadium where the cricket games of the South Asian Games were being held. The idea to promote and link volunteerism with the games was brilliant. In another example of coordination and partnerships, Youth Advocacy Nepal, a leading NGO in partnership with ActionAid Nepal, VSO Nepal, Raleigh International, URJA, Restless Development Nepal and NAFAN, organized the “Nepal Volunteer Conference: Challenges and Opportunities” where over hundred youth discussed about ways to strengthen the volunteering sector in Nepal.

One central idea: all the stakeholders involved in the organization of IVD 2019 came up with the idea of having a so called “one stop volunteering shop” scattered in key points of the Valley, acting as info-points to explain people why volunteering can make the difference. On the 5th of December, moving around the valley, from Pulchock to Basanthapur to Bhaktapur you could notice teams of youth with a colorful orange “Volunteer for Nepal” t-shirt engaging local people in a fun way, talking about volunteerism and explaining why volunteering make the difference. For example in Exhibition road a joint team from ENGAGE and volunteers from the National Youth Council had lots of fun with more than 200 people, all willing to take a fun picture and talk about volunteerism.

Not only in the Valley of Kathmandu: the celebrations were organized in a such way to also promote IVD 2019 in different corners of the country, making it more decentralized and less focused on the “capital”. VSO organized an event in Pokhara focused on SDG 10 and the pursuit of equality and inclusion through volunteerism.

Inclusion is paramount: the theme of the event in Pokhara was not casual as IVD 2019 officialtopic was “Volunteering for an Inclusive Future”. All stakeholders made efforts to reach out vulnerable groups, those who supposedly have less chances of volunteering. The National Federation of Persons with Disabilities-Nepal, NFD-N was involved and the Bright Star Society under the leadership of Sushil Adhikari, a former Asia Foundation Fellow and activist, played a very important role by speaking the Nepal Volunteer Conference and by promoting volunteerism in the street of Kathmandu together with ENGAGE. The key message was that “everybody can serve” as volunteerism can be a tremendous platform to promote social inclusion showing that everybody can have a role in making the country better.

Another way to make inclusion easily understandable to everyone was through the Equalizer, a game used to show that it is possible, with small adjustments, to bring everybody on the same height, making everybody equal.

Planning is essential: all these activities were organized thanks to a strong, participatory brainstorming that involved all the key stakeholders. Obviously it was not easy and it was a real investment in terms of time and energies.

Volunteers must be prepared: in order to arrange all activities, it was very essential to ensure that all volunteers involved were clear and on the same page about the message to spread. A special prep meeting was held so that there was absolute alignment among all those involved. To make the message of inclusive volunteering clear, Sushil Adhikari shared his own personal example on why it persons with disabilities should be part of the volunteering conversation.

Being Cost-effective: the entire celebrations were run with a minimum budget, showing that you do not need big bucks to organize events like this.

Finally a proposition for the future: let’s not waste the team spirit that was created for IVD 2019. Let’s work to have an informal network with all agencies, groups promoting and working in the field of volunteerism. It would be a pity waiting for next IVD and start again from scratch.

Galimberti is the Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with and without disabilities. He can be reached at simone_engage@yahoo.com


Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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