Thousands rock to 'Volunteering for our Planet'
04 February 2010

Delhi, India: UNV India played a role of leadership for International Volunteer Day 2009.

Swechha (an NGO), UNDP India, VSO, the American Center, the Times Foundation, the Indian Council for Cultural Relations, Department of Environment, Govt. of Delhi, NFI, Tehelka, NDTV, Radio MEOW, The YP Foundation and Jamghat joined hands to celebrate and commemorate International Volunteer Day.

The aims and objectives of conducting the event and school workshops were to highlight and showcase volunteer efforts in different campaigns and initiatives; to mobilize more volunteers for a broad range of activities and organizations, specifically for the environment and climate change solutions; to connect the concept of volunteerism with environmental and developmental issues and causes; and to promote volunteerism as a fun, interesting, engaging and youthful activity amongst the citizenry and media.

Activities were divided into two phases: the campaign phase, directed towards mobilizing scores of volunteers, recognizing the efforts of volunteers and advocating various aspects of volunteerism among a wide audience (students from schools, colleges, and professionals from various backgrounds); and the second phase, the 5 December event itself - celebrating, visualizing and engaging volunteers.

The IVD 2009 programme began with a series of workshops conducted in schools across Delhi, with the theme being ‘Volunteering for Our Planet’. The workshops were conducted in 30 schools, some Government, some private, and touched almost all parts of the city and all social strata.

The workshops were extremely well received by the students and teaching staff at all of the schools where they were conducted. In addition, we also created for each school a ‘volunteer space’ by gifting them a wall magazine where they could write about and share ideas on volunteering with their peers and school mates.

The workshops became a highly animated and interactive forum for the students to discuss their own ideas and concepts, and what it meant to them to be a volunteer. In addition, they had the opportunity to meet and interact with volunteer heroes, including a representative of UNV who shared their experiences of volunteering with the students.

The event on International Volunteer Day was immensely successful bringing together a cross section of Delhi’s society comprising of bureaucrats, media persons, policy-makers, environmentalists, students and youth who learned about the Yamuna River - its importance, its pitiable state in Delhi and the need to save it.

The highlights of the day were as follows:

  • A massive Shramdaan, where over 3,000 volunteers, including school and college students, National Cadet Corps cadets, the UNV India Country Team, environmental activists, Government officials, celebrities from the worlds of fashion, music and the arts, as well as citizens of Delhi, gave their time and effort towards cleaning up the banks of the river at Kudsia Ghat.
  • A musical Performance by Menwhopause, a Delhi-based band that are hugely popular on the city’s musical circuit. The band is old friends of Swechha and has performed at and supported events hosted by Swechha for many years. They opened the musical part of the event and set the tone for the performances that followed.
  • A musical performance by Terra Naomi. Terra is an accomplished singer-songwriter and musician based in the USA. Her accomplishments include winning the first YouTube 'Best Music Video' Award in 2006 and playing solo in front of a crowd of 75,000 at Wembley Stadium during the UK leg of Live Earth in 2007. She was on a two-week tour of India, the highlights of which were her performances at the International Volunteer Day event on 8 December and the 'Say It's Possible Climate Change Concert' in Srinagar, Kashmir.
  • A musical performance by Indian Ocean, one of the country’s best known bands. The band fuses folk, Indian and western musical styles and instruments creating a unique sound. Indian Ocean performed a number of their popular songs at the event, as well as songs that were relevant to the occasion. These included songs that are a call to social action and change, and odes to rivers.
  • Speeches by the United Nations Resident Coordinator and VSO India aimed at the young people in the audience, to inspire them to volunteer and highlight the importance of 'Volunteering for our Planet'.

International Volunteer Day was celebrated on a scale perhaps never before seen in New Delhi. The message of volunteering for the planet was sent out not only to the several thousand who participated in the workshops and the event, but also the lakhs who saw and read about it through coverage by our media partners NDTV, Radio MEOW and Tehelka, as well as the other media outlets present at the event.

The event promoted the spirit of volunteering as young people participated and contributed to conducting the event. It promoted environmental leadership amongst young people.  They understood that to make ourselves heard to people who matter for cleaning up of the river we need to mobilize ourselves and sharpen our approach.

We were able to influence representatives from different strata of society at the same time. The event served as a platform for citizens to exchange ideas and suggestions to create a safer, cleaner and greener environment. By incorporating music by celebrated artistes, we succeeded in adding an element of fun and energy into the event, thereby furthering the intangible impact of the campaign on the mindset of those participating.

The concert was attended by an equal number of people- from street children from Salam Baalak Trust, Jamghat, students from Delhi’s private and government run schools, Cadets from the National Cadet Corps, employees of corporations like Tata Consultancy Services, Genpact and Whirlpool.

Thousands of people registered with partner NGOs and organizations to volunteer their time and skills in the future for similar activities or campaigns to make a positive change to the environment.

There was widespread press coverage. The media organizations that committed to covering IVD 2009 were: NDTV 24X7, NDTV India, Lok Sabha TV, Radio MEOW, IANS, Tehelka, The Indian Express, The Statesman, The Asian Age, DNA, The Washington Post and Kerala News.

The success of the IVD 2009 workshops and the event, are not just a feather in Swechha’s cap, but more importantly are indicative of the spirit of the people of Delhi. The overwhelming response we received for this programme from all stakeholders, be it volunteers, partner organizations, the Government of Delhi, and even the Delhi police, will serve as great encouragement to us, and will reinforce the faith that we have in civil society and its ability to change the world we live in.

UNV India will continue to keep in touch and work with the volunteer groups that attended the event on the 5 December. Many schools, colleges and corporations have pledged to take on and carry out action projects in their neighborhoods and offices that will help the planet.  

We are certain that the IVD event touched innumerable people and infused the passion of volunteerism and sensitivity for the planet in them.

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