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New UN initiative promotes volunteering in Kyrgyzstan
24 September 2004

Bishkek: An information centre has been established in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, to promote the work of United Nations Volunteers (UNV) in the country, with particular emphasis on the needs of young people.

Opened earlier this month, the UNV Volunteer Information Centre will act as a source of information about volunteering, as well as providing a focal point for volunteers and young people interested in development issues.

The difficulties faced by Kyrgyzstan's youthful population in securing formal employment is fuelling a new interest in volunteer work. "Every day I get phone calls from young people saying they want to be a UNV," Tomoko Matsui, an International UN Volunteer (IUNV) and centre coordinator, told IRIN.

Over 350 people, mostly high school and university students, registered with the UN as potential volunteers over the past 18 months. Many are now working as volunteers doing office work for NGOs, translation, English teaching and HIV/AIDS and human rights awareness raising.

The project acts as a clearing house for volunteers, and tries to match the needs of NGOs and community organisations with the volunteers' skills. One NGO, making an advocacy film about the health threat posed by radiation dumps, needed a script translated, and the centre was able to find people to do the job without payment.

"The movie was translated by three professionals. They got involved voluntarily, because they wanted to contribute their skills to support the project without profit," she told IRIN.

The information centre will promote volunteer work in Kyrgyzstan, together with the UNV youth project sponsored by the Japanese government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), for the next two years.

"This project looks at the country from a youth perspective," Magnus Bjork, UNV's programme officer in Kyrgyzstan, said. "By working with the youth, we will provide them with the tools to address health issues, make them more competent in the job market, and, in the long-term, secure good jobs so they can avoid poverty."

From: Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN) News