Hundreds of volunteers came together from December 5th-7th to celebrate International Volunteers Day. Three days of activities focused on the themes of employment, the environment and sport – seeking good ideas for Haitian youth. The event was organized by the United Nations Volunteers in Haiti and the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Civic Action, in partnership with the Haitian Coalition of Volunteers (COHAIV), the non- governmental organization TECHO and the Association France Volontaires [Volunteers Association of France].
At Quisqueya University, an institution that includes volunteer training on the curriculum, hundreds of volunteers participated in the official ceremony marking International Volunteers Day on December 5th. The event took place in the presence of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Haiti, Sandra Honoré , and the Director of the Cabinet of Haiti’s Ministry of Youth ,Sports and Social Action, Pierre Richard Quittere.
After the welcome speech by Professor Jacques Edouard Alexis, the host of the ceremony, the Senior Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Sophie De Caen, read a message from Helen Clark, the Administrator of UNDP, praising the “essential role [played by volunteers] in UNDP projects and programs throughout the world” – as in the organization of recent elections in Kenya.
Through the voice of his Special Representative, Sandra Honoré, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon, said he was ” particularly grateful to nearly a thousand young United Nations Volunteers who contribute to the action of the Organization in favor of peace, sustainable development and human rights.”
The debate that followed – ‘Youth and Volunteers in Haiti: Ready for Employment’ – was led by five people who shared their views on access to employment and entrepreneurship for the country’s youth. Pleased that the work of volunteers was being valued on this occasion, Darline Joseph, a young Haitian volunteer from TECHO, nevertheless lamented that their skills are often not considered as professional experience. For her part, Lazare Melissa, aged 29, spoke of scouting – which she has practiced for seven years – “as one of the oldest forms of volunteering” since it educates [in each scouting troupe] around sixty youths without remuneration.
Volunteers for the environment
For the second day of celebrations, nearly 400 volunteers took to the main Delmas road [la route de Delman], one of the principle axes of the capital Port-au-Prince, to educate residents about the importance of a clean city and cleaning-up garbage from the sidewalks. “People are listening – and want a cleaner city. The problem is a lack of rubbish bins,” says Belen Michel Torino, a young volunteer from the association TECHO, which sponsored the clean-up. “Ecological education combined with a strong environmental policy would certainly improve the situation,” thinks Belen.
Thanks to the support of eight Haitian sports federations and their network of volunteer trainers and sports coaches, the final day – marking International Volunteers Day – helped promote the sporting and artistic talents of Haitian and foreign volunteers during a session of activities on Place Boyer in Pétionville.
An exhibition of art objects and a conference were also held on Place Boyer for an audience consisting of mostly youth. The event ended with a concert.