05 December 2006
The International Volunteers Day was celebrated in Ethiopia at the Martyrs’ Memorial Monument in Mekele, Tigray Regional State on December 5, 2006. The celebration to be accompanied by a one-day annual workshop, was attended by 160 volunteers and representatives of the UNDP Ethiopia Country Office, Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO), other UN agencies including UNICEF, UNHCR and WFP, representatives of various line bureaus of Tigray Regional State such as the regional HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control Organization (HAPCO) and other non- governmental and faith-based organizations.
Selamawit Tsige, UNV Programme Officer a.i., said in her welcoming address that the day is commemorated every year since 2001 “by acknowledging all the volunteers whose collective effort makes a safer and more equitable world.”
“Dedicated and coordinated action”, were stressed by Ato Yemane, to be the critical requirement for development challenges and emergencies. “Many existing organizations and networks are helping to channel volunteer efforts towards bringing about relief or better quality of life for millions of people.” Although individual groups could make a tremendous impact, he stated that their achievements would be multiplied many times over if they formed coalitions to advance the cause of volunteerism.
Fourteen national and one international UNVs are currently working in the Tigray region alone, in the areas of HIV/AIDS, agriculture and rural development, information technology, and micro finance “complementing the government’s larger capacity efforts.”
Dr. Patricia Sellick, Country Director of VSO, who made the key note address on “Volunteerism to Reverse the Spread of HIV/AIDS”, highlighted the VSO’s three guiding principles of volunteerism, namely: Willingness, Solidarity, and Wanting to make a difference. Over the past 10 years, VSO, which primarily focused on education, has expanded its services to incorporate HIV/AIDS. This was primarily a result of the fact that teachers happened to be the third most important vulnerable groups following commercial sex workers and drivers.
Dr. Sellick said that society expects women and girls to take care of the sick, which is a barrier to unleashing their potentials. Most often the care, which women provided to the sick and dying is hardly given any value. As such, “state health systems should recognize the invisible help provided by women and girls,” Sellick pointed out.
The rest of the day was dedicated to a number of activities such as an exhibition entitled, “Let the Evidence Speak”, illustrating the works of UNVs around the nation, VSO, and home based care and support providers within Tigray. Experience was also shared by various home based care and support providers, including OSSA, Mums for Mums and the Adigrat Dioceses Catholic Secretariat.
Initiatives of Voluntary Counseling and Testing (VCT) and blood donation to the Red Cross Ethiopia also attracted several volunteers during the day. 48 individuals, including Ato Yemane Yosef, had given blood samples for voluntary HIV testing.