Global Volunteer Initiative joins Generation Unlimited

The goal is to engage and empower 20 million young volunteers as changemakers.

David Ponet
Global Volunteer Initiative joins Generation Unlimited
Global Volunteer Initiative joins Generation Unlimited
17 September 2020

September 16, 2020

The continued spread of the novel coronavirus across the globe has underscored the importance of engaging local actors in communities who are critical in responding to the current emergency and reimagining and rebuilding a post-pandemic world. In particular, young volunteers have been leading the charge, unleashing their power as changemakers to support the primary public health response, to mitigate many of the secondary effects, and to start the long process of recovery. From India to Botswana and recently in Beirut, we're witnessing the power of youth volunteers to shape our societies and contribute to more just and equitable outcomes. It is in this context that Generation Unlimited is delighted to announce that the UNICEF Global Volunteer Initiative (GVI) will be now an integral part of  GenU to help propel young people as changemakers.

GVI ensures active support to 35 UNICEF Country Offices that have established and scaled volunteer programmes with GVI support in the last three years, along with ongoing technical support to dozens more, as the GVI has built a base of 1.3 million volunteers (mostly youth) across the globe. Countries have found volunteerism a singularly effective way to engage young people and address the inequities of opportunity that lie at the heart of the Gen-U agenda.

"GVI will now play a lead role in Gen-U's ambitious goals for engaging and empowering young as changemakers.” Gen-U volunteers can become a key prong for delivering on GenU's ambitious agenda and ultimately build up to as many as 20 million volunteers", affirms Roberto Benes, Director of Generation Unlimited.

Mobilising young people to volunteer taps into a demographic dividend that improves societies and unleashes a generation of new leaders. Volunteering enables young people to envision and reclaim their place in society. Gen U volunteers will be actively involved in setting the vision & priorities in their localities, their countries, the UN, and beyond. And there's a multiplying force of volunteerism: as volunteers build self-awareness, self-esteem and confidence, they enact change in their communities and impart skills to others. Gen U Volunteers acquire skills in communication, problem-solving, organizing, planning, and benefit from a stronger start to their employment journeys.

Below are examples of how volunteer engagement has already begun to deliver on GenU priorities.

Examples of youth volunteer power

Volunteer mobilizing around the current emergency:

  • Africa's Volunteer COVID Response, a collaboration between Gen-U/GVI and the African Union youth division since May 2020 has been powered and driven by young leaders across the continent. To date, the volunteer working groups have developed a volunteer response toolkit, a campaign to support transition of communities in anticipation of a post-COVID phase, as well as a communication podcast to build enthusiasm amongst young Africans for a better world.
  • Just days after the recent Beirut explosion, UNICEF Lebanon launched a drive to mobilize new volunteers and over 1,000 young people signed up within 36 hours.  These young volunteers are complementing the over 300 that are currently being mobilized to:
    • support the cleanup of streets and removal of light debris from public spaces;
    • distribute and tape up plastic tarpaulins in windows/doors of affected homes and shops; and
    • prepare and distribute water and food to affected households and to community members who are responding to the crisis.
  • During the nationwide lockdown in Botswana this past May, UNICEF volunteers assisted the Ministry of Health to deliver food baskets to households and supported services around sexual reproductive health in 5 districts.
  • In Kazakhstan, more than 1500 young people have enrolled to support the UNICEF volunteering programme since April, reaching 500,000 young people through social media with key messages on psycho-social support, promotion of physical and mental health during the COVID-19 outbreak.
  • In Thailand, 2,000 volunteers are tracking and reporting on their communities' needs related to COVID-19, creating content for audience engagement, and sharing their experiences. For example, cartoonists helped develop hundreds of drawings for a children's online catalog with simple lessons to stay healthy and protected.
  • South Africa is deploying 2000 youth volunteers with the aim of reaching at least 50,000 people and disseminating messages on preventive/protective behavior and combatting misinformation.

Volunteers playing a key role in delivering change for children and young people:

  • In Rwanda, youth volunteers re-enrolled thousands of kids in school in just a few months while also receiving skills training themselves
  • In November 2019 Bangladesh launched their volunteer portal and received 32,000 applications in just ten days. Young volunteers supported the Vitamin A campaign in several ways:
    • Volunteers were assigned to 2,500 distribution sites in 21 districts which are largely low performing and in hard to reach areas.
    • Youth volunteers alone oversaw 2,006 distribution centres across Bangladesh
    • Volunteers paid home visits to mothers to encourage them to bring their children for Vitamin A supplementation.
  • In 13 districts of Chhattisgarh, India over 6500 youth volunteers were trained on how to defend their rights and on community mobilization and in turn sensitized 100,000 children and 250,000 community members on various forms of violence and worked with them to map and address protection issues in their communities. In Madya Pradesh, India over 2,500 youth volunteers were trained and ran street theater programmes as part of an effort to reduce child marriage - educating and engaging some 250,000 community members (including children). 
  • In disaster-prone Kyrgyzstan, over 20,000 kids were reached by youth volunteers with disaster preparedness trainings in just a few months, filling a critical gap. The youth volunteers had to apply to volunteer – for many it entailed preparing a CV for the first time – and gained valuable skills such as public speaking and mediation.
  • In Jordan, UNICEF has built a platform that matches thousands of volunteers (currently 30k with plans to register another 30k in the next year) to thousands of volunteer opportunities with civil society and private-sector organizations, providing valuable nonformal education and improving prospects for future employability
  • In Kosovo, UNICEF developed the KOVO platform that has already matched twelve thousand volunteers with opportunities in the private sector and with CSOs