International Volunteer Day (IVD), 2016

International Volunteer Day (IVD), which is celebrated on December 5th every year, was celebrated across the Caribbean, from Barbados to Suriname. International and National UN volunteers worked to make this day a great success in its own way in each of their countries of placements. We did outreach and advocacy work on volunteerism, the UNV Programme, Volunteerism and IVD, we supported children at hospitals and built sanitation services in schools, we promoted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and even appeared on radio and a television show.
Out of all the great initiatives that took place, one specific activity deserves to be highlighted. In Trinidad & Tobago a great collaboration occurred through the support of international UN volunteer, Dr Stephanie Awa Mendy, from Gambia, who has been posted at the Point Fortin Health Centre in the south of Trinidad since July 2015. Dr Mendy developed partnerships with her colleagues, members of her community and the Therapeutic and Life Skills Centre, laid the ground work and submitted a concept note to support the Therapeutic and Life Skills Centre, located in Point Fortin based on a needs assessment. This centre offers targeted education and training for those living with autism and spectrum disorder (ASD). The centre was established in November 2013 and received its first student in January 2014. They currently educate more than 15 students between the ages of 3-20 every year. Dr Mendy met with the general manager of the centre - Nichol Alves, to ascertain what their needs were and observed that a laminating machine was desirable to ensure a longer lasting shelf life for the learning aids and activities. She also observed that they were in need of benches and chairs that were of a suitable size for the younger children, as many were too small to sit at the current desks provided. Dr Mendy knew that these items would greatly enhance the learning environment for all the students and was motivated to provide them.
In order to fund this initiative and make IVD a reality, UNV collaborated with PAHO/WHO, who provided the financial support. On IVD, International UN volunteer doctors from across Trinidad, Dr Edwin Bolastig, Advisor, Health Systems and Services for PAHO/WHO (and a past international UN volunteer), along with UNDP staff and Rene Berryman-Sheppard, UNV Programme Assistant, travelled to Point Fortin. Not only was the equipment delivered and shared with the participants and staff, but a number of persons present shared a few words. Rene spoke about the UNV Programme, volunteerism and its importance in Trinidad and Tobago, UNDP staff shared information on the Sustainable Development Goals and related specific goals to the needs of the students. Some fun activities were played with the students such as an SDG Bingo Card game. Dr Bolastig also shared some words of encouragement and volunteerism from PAHO’s perspective as well.
The day was filled with laughter, smiles, appreciation and gratitude and at moments many noted that it was also a very emotional day when the staff and even parents spoke about why they do what they do in order to provide a safe and educational environment for their students and children.
UNV was so proud of this initiative and truly felt like an impact was made for the students and teachers and we are thankful for all of our volunteers who supported this initiative as well as to PAHO/WHO and UNDP for their support and collaboration. We look forward to IVD 2017 to continue showcasing volunteerism and UNV across the Caribbean.

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