INTERVIEW: Platforms needed to bridge gap between volunteers and entities in Egypt

Ingy Deif, Sunday 30 Apr 2023

Ahram Online discusses challenges that face volunteering in Egypt with the National Coordinator of the United Nations Volunteers Programme (UNV) in Egypt Heba Nosseir.

Heba Nosseir (UNV)
Hebba Nosseir, Country Coordinator, UNV Egypt discuss challenges facing volunteerism


AO: Tell us about volunteering at the UN in Egypt?

Heba Nosseir: My name is Heba Nosseir. I am the national coordinator for the United Nations Volunteering (UNV) Programme in Egypt.

The programme works to integrate volunteers with the UN and its projects.

The goal of their work in the UN is to help achieve the sustainable development goals and local development plans such as the 2030 plan for Egypt.

Last year we had 169 volunteers in 15 UN bodies, including the WHO, the UNDP, UNICEF, and others.

Volunteers radiate great energy and passion, and they have a very noble motive which is to help develop their societies.

This motivation pushes them to innovate and shine in their tasks, and therefore the presence of volunteers in the UN makes a very big difference.

AO: What are the most prominent examples of their recent work?

HN: Well, for example, when Egypt hosted the COP 27 conference in December 2022, there were many volunteers from the UN, and everyone attested that they made a big difference in the several roles assigned to them.

Among them were those who carried out tasks for the Ministry of Social Solidarity, as the ministry mobilised more than 600 volunteers to organise various activities of the ministry in the conference. These volunteers were headed by 9 UN leading volunteers who skillfully helped the others organise the operations.

Another formidable model at COP 27 was the volunteers who worked for the WHO and prepared workshops and sessions in the conference related to different health issues as well as those who participated in the UNDP and helped deliver content on societal issues.

Volunteers in the UN programme also helped to achieve the inclusion of people with special needs in the activities of the conference, and also helped in the implementation and development of anti-harassment policies.

Another example is a beautiful story of an Egyptian girl who had volunteered to teach children in a school in Vietnam the English language, and provided wonderful content on the internet and her story is indeed inspiring and beautiful

AO: How is volunteering at the UN different from other organisations in Egypt?

HN: The system and model of volunteering in the UN is a different and distinct model, as it depends on the description of the assignment.

The task description is announced online, and those who want to volunteer  apply, and interviews are held to determine who is suitable for each task.

Noteworthy, this volunteering has a financial stipend, not a salary, but a form of living expense , because the volunteer sometimes devotes himself or herself to the task for periods ranging from three months up to four years, so he/she gets a stipend for living expenses , such as food, drink, transportation, etc.

AO: What are the categories and types of volunteering, and is it determined by certain ages?

HN: There is a category of youth from 16-to 28-years-old, then a category of specialised volunteers from 27 years and above, then a category of expert volunteers starting from 35 years.

 We have volunteers who are 80-years-old who offer their experience and contributions, and they have a very important imprint in UN projects.

There is also an important type of volunteering, especially in our new era, which is online volunteering.

 This type was present even before the Corona pandemic, but the pandemic confirmed and established its importance.

One of the advantages of volunteer work via the internet or remotely is that it is convenient to specific tasks like data collection, translation and specific research tasks.

AO: Is volunteering well-established in the Egyptian culture? And what are the challenges in this field?

HN: Doing well is rooted in our culture and our personalities, and we do not find it difficult to convince people of its importance and usefulness. On the contrary, we always find interest and dedication from people.

Perhaps the problem in Egypt is that volunteering proceeds spontaneously, so we just need to organise and find different policies and platforms that allow organisations to reach volunteers and vice versa.

The existence of organisational policies will allow for finding a solution to big problems such as the lack of databases or data for volunteering in Egypt, and this thereby causes difficulty of conducting related research and studies.

We find that Western countries, for example, count volunteering and its efforts within the GDP. We do not do that.

The second problem is that volunteers and organisations requesting volunteering cannot reach one another.

We at UNV have a space to communicate, but the rest of the platforms undoubtedly suffer from this problem.

The third problem is related to skill-based volunteering, and finding platforms that maximises the efficiency of utilising these skills.

AO: What was the focus of UNV work in the previous period?

HN: Through my work as a programme coordinator, we have been connecting suitable volunteers with specific bodies or organisations within the UN.

Another axis is forming a network of civil work institutions, government agencies and international organisations to meet and discuss how to develop volunteer work in Egypt.

We have launched several campaigns, the most recent of which coincided with COP 27 to raise awareness of environmental issues on social media, and we reached about 300,000 beneficiaries.

Every year we commemorate International Volunteer Day, on the 5th of December, in which the efforts of volunteers are celebrated and honoured.

We also cooperated with the Ministry of Youth in training volunteers for Cairo’s book fair.

Finally, we also work to integrate people with special needs into volunteer work, so we cooperate with affiliated entities in society to integrate this segment into volunteer work within UN projects and help achieve the goals of sustainable development.

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