11 December 2009
by Eszter Farkas, Hungarian UNV volunteer Public Information Officer in UNMIS
Ikhlas (left) and Viviana Olivetto, UNMIS UNV volunteer Return Reintegration Recovery Officer, carrying a tree to be planted in the courtyard of Wawesi secondary school for girls. (Eszter Farkas)As part of the environmental awareness campaign, volunteers from UNV and the Sudanese Environment Conservation Society, together with community leaders from Wawesy village, talk to secondary school students about the importance of trees. (Sudanese Environment Conservation Society)Eszter Farkas, UNMIS UNV volunteer Public Information Officer, planting a tree on International Volunteer Day in Wawesy village. (Ernest Kwia)Yves-Charles Goin from Haiti, UNAMID UNV volunteer Transport Assistant, carrying tools and a tree to plant in the courtyard of Wawesi secondary school for girls. (Eszter Farkas)Khartoum, Sudan:
Arriving in five buses at the desert village of Wawisi, 50 kilometres north of Khartoum, 150 volunteers set out with the local community to plant 1,000 trees in commemoration of International Volunteer Day on 5 December.
“We need the trees for water and to make us healthier,” 18-year-old student Suha said, sitting with her classmates under a bright red tent erected for the opening celebration within the girls’ school compound.
Opening the event, which was celebrated under the theme Volunteering for the Planet, UN representative Nils Kastberg said the world needed more volunteers acting against pollution without waiting for incentives.
The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, in partnership with volunteers of the Sudanese Environmental Conservation Society, chose the rural area in particular for the project to lessen the effects of the nearby oil refinery, said UNMIS UNV Projects and Advocacy Officer Daniela Bosioc.
The Sheikh of Wawisi said that the trees were greatly needed because the village had been experiencing harmful effects of the oil refinery, including premature births, animal deaths and decrease of crops.
The rural area was previously forested, but lack of environmental knowledge and the need for firewood had urged locals to cut trees down, inhabitant Basheir Ahmed said, thanking the volunteers for investing time and energy into improving conditions.
Following discussions about the environment at Wawesi’s two high schools weeks before the event, volunteers of UNMIS, UN Development Programme (UNDP) other agencies and local organizations planted 1,000 trees on the main street, around mosques, schools and mud-brick houses.
“Trees offer shade and protect against pollution, and mean beauty,” third-grade high school student Jibril Ibrahim said, standing near a freshly planted sapling that still needed to be fenced against hungry goats.
The event was accompanied by a drawing competition and a puppet show, which taught children about environmental protection with animal characters, including an ignorant donkey, a chattering monkey and a cunning fox.
“I used to volunteer with wildlife conservation in my home country,” UNMIS electoral UNV Lawrence Nagbe from Ghana said, adding “When I heard about the tree planting project I jumped on board!”
“The aim of Volunteer Day is to highlight the efforts that volunteers make all over the world, throughout the year,” Ms. Bosioc said.
Sudan has some 900 UNV volunteers, including about 350 people with UNMIS, 400 with UNAMID and 150 with UN agencies, making it the biggest programme country.