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Nigeria's Millennium Villages Volunteer for our Planet
10 January 2010
by Galina Chus, UNV Programme Officer, Abuja

Abuja and Ikaram, Nigeria: Nigeria, as a member of the United Nations, joined the rest of the world to celebrate International Volunteer Day.

Preparation for the celebration of the 2009 IVD in Nigeria started in September 2009 with consultative meeting between the management of Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO). (To read the full illustrated report in PDF, click here).

A Central Planning Committee was established to map out activities to mark the 2009 IVD. As part of activities to celebrate the 2009 IVD, the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS) has been able to mobilize the 36 States and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) intimating them on the event and encouraging a nationwide celebration.

Press Conference

1 December: Press briefing by Ambassador Chike Alex Anigbo, Permanent Secretary, Political Affairs, office of the secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). The Permanent Secretary reminded the audience that the history of volunteering in Nigeria dated back to pre-industrial societies, where mutual self-help (building homes for the aged and invalid, bush clearing of farmlands, roads maintenance) was vital to survival.

He further stated that with globalization, issue of volunteering had gained strength at both national and international levels all for the good of humanity. Finally, the Permanent Secretary highlighted the crucial role that volunteers play in addressing environmental issues and invited everyone to join the 'Volunteering for our Planet' campaign.

Rally

The Rally commenced at 7 a.m. with a float ride of one thousand youth, women and students from Berger Junction in Abuja to an open field in Area 11 in Garki. All participants wore T-shirts and caps bearing the message of the theme and the IVD logo.

The objective of the Rally was to create awareness of Nigerians on volunteerism and issues of global concern, namely the global warming. Ambassador Chike Anigbo, Permanent Secretary (Political Affairs), OSGF, encouraged the participants of the rally to adopt the habit of cleanliness, as 60 percent of illnesses were traceable to unhealthy environment conditions.

The UNV Programme Officer, urged the participants to imbibe the habit of being conscious of the environment activities, both at work and at home. She advocated for proper use of waste bins and for the replacement of plastic bags with the reusable cloth ones.

Tree Planting

The Tree Planting exercise took place opposite the Unity Garden, Mabusi in Abuja on December 3, 2009 with active participation of collaborating Ministries and Agencies such as Federal Ministry of Environment, Women Affairs and Social Development, Federal capital Territory Administration, Women Environmental Programme (WEP), Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative (FBI), Abuja Environment Protection Board (AEPB) and Women Affairs and Social Development.

Over 200 participants took part in the tree planting exercise. Honourable guests urged Nigerians to plant trees to save our planet from environment degradation. While planting his own tree, the UNDP Deputy Country Director in Nigerian, Mr. Janthomas Hiemstra highlighted the importance of planting trees to arrest the damage caused by degradation of the environment.

Seminar

The Seminar/Award presentation for the 2009 IVD took place on December 5, 2009 at Cyprian Ekwensi Arts and Cultural Centre. About 205 participants attended the event amongst whom were dignitaries such as the Ambassador Joe Keshi; Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and former National Coordinator NNVS and Mrs. M/N. Ajanah, outgoing Director of NNVS.

Toolkit on volunteerism

A toolkit on volunteerism was launched was launched by Ambassador Joe Keshi during the 2009 IVD. The Ambassador remarked that it had come at a good time when volunteering was gaining official ground in the country.

The toolkit on volunteerism was a collaborative project of the Fresh & Young Brains Development Initiative (FBI), the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Nigeria and the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS).

The toolkit was designed as a guide for peer education at the individual and community levels and aimed at providing a comprehensive guide on youth volunteerism, its concepts and role in development. The project focused on a) national volunteers seen as main agents for constructive change; b) volunteer policies and procedures; c) best practices; d) reasons and benefits of volunteerism.

Reusable bags

Reusable bags were launched by Mrs. M.N. Ajanah, Director of the Nigerian National Volunteer Service (NNVS) during the 2009 IVD in Abuja and in Ikaram. She thanked the UNV Programme Officer on behalf of all present for promoting replacement of the plastic bags with the environment friendly re-usable bags which are a simple solution to plastic bags.

In her presentation, the UNV Programme Officer sensitized the participants of the workshop on harmful effects of plastic bags on the environment. Plastic bags are popular with both retailers and consumers because they are cheap, lightweight and hygienic means of carrying goods or food. But every medal has its reverse and everyone should bear in mind that plastic bags are non-biodegradable and will remain in landfills for 450-1000 years; they litter the landscape and kill animals. About 100,000 animals are killed every year due to plastic bags. Many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food.

Finally, the UNV Programme Officer recommended the use of re-useable bags to the participants and urged them to sign the ‘seal the deal’ petition which were available on-line and also in hard copies.

Individuals and organizations who contributed in various ways to the growth of volunteering in Nigeria were presented with certificates of recognition at the event. Selection of the awardees was earlier done by a small committee, using carefully drawn out criteria. Among the awardees were also those who worked with measurable achievement on environmental sustainability and conservation.

IVD in Ikaram/Ondo State, December 7


Planning for the IVD event in Ikaram commenced when the UNV team from Abuja visited the Ikaram Millennium Village (MV) team in September 2009. The UNV team recognized that the recruitment of two more UNV volunteers into the MV team (to make three UNV volunteers) presented an opportunity to strengthen the potential for volunteerism at the project level.

This idea was embraced by the MV team, activities were suggested and the date was selected to be on Monday 7th December 2009-coinciding with the commencement of the Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.

The 2009 IVD programme tagged “Volunteering For A Cleaner and Healthier Environment” commenced in the morning with an awareness rally in Ikaram community to sensitize the people about the event. Over a hundred people including youths, women and men participated in the rally singing and dancing from Ikaram town hall to the ICT centre and then back to the hall (a distance of about 2 kilometres).

The event continued at the Ikaram town hall where the distinguished guests recognized that the IVD programme in the MVP was timely because of the need for greater level of commitment needed for project sustainability. It was emphasized that the key resolution from the event was that the participants need to begin the process of change from themselves; they should desist from unhygienic practices and be the vanguard to carry the message to others in the community.

The programme continued with a documentary on climate change and was followed by a presentation titled “Harmful Effects of Plastic Bags on the Environment” delivered by the UNV Programme Officer Ms. Galina Chus.

IVD provided an opportunity to champion a tree planting campaign in the cluster as a means of promoting a cleaner and healthier environment. Participants undertook a rally to the ‘millennium market’ in Ikaram community where eight trees were planted by the Chairman Akoko North West Local Government Area (ANWLGA), Supervisory Councillor, UNV Programme Officer, members of the central cluster committee and the youth president.

The International Volunteer Day events in Abuja and Ikaram were covered by the media, namely by the NTA International. It provided an opportunity to create awareness on volunteerism among at least 30 million of Nigerians at home and in the Diaspora.

Organization of the IVD events in Abuja and Ikaram, production of T-shirts, Toolkit on Volunteerism and reusable bags have been made possible with the financial support of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Abuja, namely Governance, Environment units and Millennium Village project in Ikaram.