Sat, 29 Apr 2000

UN: Volunteers need better networking to solve problems

JAKARTA (JP): Better networking among organizations of volunteers is needed to share experiences to solve common problems such as funding and overlapping, activists said on Friday.

Program officer of the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Menchie O. Caramat told The Jakarta Post, "There are actually many corporate sectors who are willing (to help with funding) but other volunteering organizations don't know how to approach them."

She was a speaker at a workshop focusing on voluntarism in Indonesia, facilitated by the Jakarta office of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

Networking will also avoid the overlapping of areas and places in which organizations work in, Caramat added.

Caramat cited that volunteers from UNV overlapped with others from the Indonesian chapter of the international Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) during an assignment to Eastern Indonesia. This was due to a lack of communication, she said, without elaborating.

UNV programs in Indonesia include improving sanitation facilities, upgrading vocational and technology training, promoting health care, maternal care and child nutrition.

The workshop highlighted various volunteering activities in the country. These include the distribution of food to the urban poor, informal education for street children and day care for babies in slums by the Youth End Hunger organization, and the improvement of the quality of life of HIV-positive people by the Spiritia Foundation.

The workshop was held ahead of the International Year of Volunteers in 2001.

Jens Behrendt, the program specialist of the UNV headquarters in Bonn, Germany, said the celebration of voluntarism reflected actions coming from people's initiatives throughout the world, without waiting for government instructions.

Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, the UNDP deputy resident representative, said voluntarism was important given Indonesia's "tremendous transitions".

Rinto of the Voluntary Team for Humanity described how command posts for victims were set up spontaneously following various tragedies in the capital since July 1996.

This was when many people went missing after the violent takeover of the headquarters of the Indonesian Democratic Party. The team was formed after the May 1998 riots and the shooting of students at Trisakti University which preceded the fall of former president Soeharto.

The volunteers, who were reportedly targets of harassment, among other things, distributed medical aid and logistic support, and also provided information about the latest developments for the May victims.

Caramat said more exposure of volunteering activities was needed to help mobilize people to join.

The president of the Jakarta International Association for Volunteer Efforts (JIAVE) Nurhayati A. Assegaff said that "many of these activities have gone unnoticed due to their low profile".

Caramat said people should know how important and rewarding it is to voluntarily work to promote other people's lives.

"I'm a Filipino and I've been working for the UNV in Indonesia for more than three years. I have had no regrets at all once you see the fruits of your efforts," she said. (08)