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UN Volunteers Retreat 9-12 May 2011
Submitted by admin on 21 September 2011 - 6:05am
In May this year, the UNV Field Unit organized the annual retreat and skills building workshop for UN Volunteers serving in Cambodia. This year's special theme was: Indigenous Communities of Cambodia and Development Challenges.
The participants visited Mondulkiri province, one of the least developed provinces of Cambodia, and met with the Indigenous group called Bunong (Pnong), which helped them to better understand the realities of the poorest and marginalized people in Cambodia.
UNV partnered with the Cambodian Indigenous Youth Association (CIYA) in organizing the retreat. 21 participants took part, of which 13 were UN Volunteers, 3 members of the UNV office team and 5 CIYA members.
Working closely on the organization strengthened the partnership between CIYA and UNV which will continue in the future with more joint activities.
The retreat began with a presentation by CIYA’s President about the lives of indigenous people, which prompted intensive discussions amongst the Volunteers.
After having joined the local community members in fishing, rice planting and forest products gathering, the participants developed some recommendations and suggestions, which they took back to their respective UN agencies in order to integrate the needs and challenges of Indigenous communities into development programmes and projects.
Afterwards. the UN Volunteers cooked a traditional Khmer dish and presented donations from all members, including some specific items requested by the communities, to the Elders.
In order to show the appreciation of their visitors and illustrate their unique culture, the local community shared traditionally prepared meals, demonstrated a number of traditional dances in traditional costumes, sang songs and performed a welcoming praying ceremony.
To be invited to experience the Indigenous culture so closely was a very special experience for the UN Volunteers.
The value of UN Volunteers lies in their ability to combine technical skills and professionalism with motivation, dedication and flexibility. Because of their unique position within the UN system, the UN Volunteers are better positioned to bring communities closer to the development programming and planning, through representing the voices of marginalized as well as through mobilizing communities to participate in development processes.
However, the volunteers did not only come to Mondulkiri province to learn about the Indigenous community but also to reflect together on volunteerism in various ways.
During the “Volunteerism for Development” session, for example, the UN Volunteers developed some practical ideas on how to further promote volunteerism and integrate volunteerism into their projects and activities.
One of the key objectives of the retreat, which was the facilitation of networking and an exchange of experiences among UN Volunteers, was achieved through individual presentations of their work and projects. The interactive sessions provided for a discussion of challenges and opportunities that the volunteer assignment unfolds. As a team, the volunteers subsequently developed solutions to the identified challenges.
A very interesting exercise was mapping the strength of UN Volunteers, the results of which demonstrated the diversity of backgrounds, experiences and expertise. Each UN Volunteer working in Cambodia accordingly has in average 5 years of only volunteering experience!
Furthermore, a list of actions on further strengthening the support to UN Volunteers was developed after a discussion of the support the UNV-office has provided so far and the role it should play in guiding, informing and supporting the volunteers.
Most of the sessions were facilitated by our volunteers themselves and it proved to be a very effective approach. Moreover, the final evaluations showed that the UN Volunteers support annual retreats with a focus on specific development challenges.
The active participation and motivation by everyone made this retreat a unique event and a success!
We would like to thank everyone for their participation and support as well as for constructive feedback and suggestions.
Special thanks go to the CIYA team, especially to Sochea Pheap, the President of CIYA, for being there with us throughout the retreat, for facilitating the visits to the community and for sharing his knowledge and experience and for all the other various forms of support.
Thanks to Casey, Zoe, Clara and Flavia for facilitating sessions and to Martina and Maeve for ice-breakers and energizers, also to all photographers.
A huge thank you to Naroth for taking care of all administrative and logistical aspects of the retreat and for her valuable inputs into the programme. Also thanks to Socheata and Phearun, our interns at that time, for their help before, during and after the retreat.
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