#VolunteerStories: Contributing to Community Development through Volunteerism
As a South Korean adoptee with Swiss-American nationalities, I am in Mongolia serving as an international United Nations (UN) Volunteer, thanks to the generosity, compassion and help of others. Whether it was the two Korean foster mothers who took me in as an infant or my adoptive parents, to whom I am forever grateful, the notion of providing and assisting others, has shaped who I am today.
Since an early age, volunteering has been an integral part of my life. My first experience in a formal setting was during secondary school, when I spent a summer volunteering with clients diagnosed with mental illness in a local thrift shop, run by the National Alliance on Mental Illness in the States. By the end of the summer, after accumulating over 300 hours of volunteer work, I knew that this type of community-focused assistance was something that I wanted to further contribute to, in the future.
Fast-forwarding to 2015, I am currently entering into my fifteenth month of service as a UN Volunteer working for the Democratic Governance Unit of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Mongolia. My drive for assisting others and community development is stronger than ever as a project advisor and coordinator within UNDP’s “Capacity Strengthening of Local Self-Governing Bodies” (CSLSB) Project.
Despite the formalities required in my work, I feel I am impacting the lives of individuals and local communities. I can see the impact through the implementation of grants to improve citizen participation, monitoring and evaluation trips to the countryside, trainings, regional workshops, and outreach activities with Mongolian youth.
Fortunate enough to split my time between UNDP Country Office and the CSLSB Project Unit, I am able to interact with different stakeholders and experts on a regular basis. My responsibilities revolve around report writing, liaising between UNDP and the Project’s donor, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC); serving as the gender focal point and synergy point of contact; leading monitoring and evaluation trips; assisting in Mongolia’s first ever Women’s Leadership Training for female khural [local self-governing bodies] representatives; and representing UNDP at meetings on subjects such as direct democracy and fiscal equalization. I have benefitted from a number of trainings, which include enterprise risk management, project cycle management, monitoring and evaluation, results-based reporting, and human-interest story writing. I am grateful for the continual support I receive from SDC, UNDP, UNV, and the Project Unit.
While the Project deals primarily with khurals and within formal settings, the most rewarding experience has been visiting the Mongolian countryside. It is when I meet everyday citizens that I learn about the impact of our work at the local level and about the challenges that persist within the governance context. Another full year of the Project implementation lies ahead but I hope that both current and future generations of Mongolians will benefit from the final results and impacts of our work.
Photo Courtesy of Philippe Long, UNDP Mongolia