22 January 2009
At the end of the Week of Volunteerism in commemoration of International Volunteer Day 2008, featuring advocacy activities, a United Nations Volunteers programme workshop, a march to show cause for volunteerism, and the renovation of a Children’s Ward at Mulago Hospital, volunteers were feted with a Volunteer Cocktail Party at the Imperial Royal Hotel, Kampala.
Speaking at the party organized in honour and recognition of the great work undertaken by volunteers in Uganda and the world over, the new Country Director of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Ms. Mary Symmonds, commended volunteers for being a critical part of the force in Uganda that is facilitating the country in its struggle to attain better human development, measure up to the set Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), as well as achieve meaningful development in this region. She reiterated that the UN System views and supports volunteerism as one way of helping communities attain their full potential.
In addition, Ms. Symmonds quoted former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on his remark that “International Volunteer Day is an opportunity to remind all who seek selflessly to improve our world that their contributions are recognized.” The cocktail party was therefore a moment during which seen and unseen efforts of millions of volunteers were recognized.
The day was crowned by recognising and presenting awards to volunteers who had made a positive difference through illustrious and constructive contributions to society. National Alliance for Volunteer Efforts (NAVE) Uganda, a conglomeration of volunteer-involving organizations both national and international, partnered with Ufadhili Trust (operating from Kenya) to initiate an incredible way of recognising the gracious and impeccable contributions of volunteers through the Volunteer of the Year Awards (VOYA), a first in Uganda.
The Chief Guest, Ms. Symmonds, then presented the Volunteer of the Year Awards (VOYA) to the winners who had been nominated and carefully chosen by an independent panel of distinguished persons in Uganda who have experience in dealing with volunteers and volunteer-involving organizations. Under the category of Individual National, Mr. Denis Akena, a youth counsellor with Straight Talk Foundation in Gulu, Northern Uganda, emerged the winner due to his making a tremendous and positive difference in the lives of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP). Mr. Akena made a great contribution to IDP youth in the area of sport by introducing basketball in wheel chairs, a first in Uganda.
Dr Paul Williams, a medical superintendent of the Bwindi Health Centre in the Kanungu District, South-West Uganda, scooped the award for the category of Individual International volunteer. And the Volunteer of the Year Award (VOYA), under the category of community-based volunteer-involving organization, went to “Silent Voices” of the Bushenyi District, Southern Uganda. It was a moment of joy for all the volunteers and volunteer-involving organizations sharing the achievements and inspirational experiences of their notable works and contributions to society.