contributed by UNV Kazakhstan, Josefine Ulbrich (UNV Intern for Youth Networks & Volunteering)
On International Youth Day 2013, taking the continuation of the National Consultation process into their own hands, 16 youth volunteers engaged the Kazakhs in an open conversation about their priorities for the post-2015 development agenda. They contributed to the offline roll out of the MY World survey in two bustling public places in Astana.
Building on the momentum of the Post-2015 National Consultation Process led by Kazakhstan’s government and the UN Country Team, which engaged more than 2000 people, UNV Kazakhstan promoted youth’s powerful role as agents of change and mobilized young volunteers in a MY World outreach campaign, to make sure the ideas of Kazakhstan’s people are reflected in the global conversation on Post-2015 development.
As the fundament for reaching out and building an inclusive, sustainable future for all, the UNV Kazakhstan team led a training session for the volunteers in cooperation with its national partner, the National Volunteer Network, prior to the event.
Equipped with a MY World booth which featured a large-scale poster of the sixteen issues on the survey, the volunteers were unstoppable in collecting people’s votes on their six priorities. In only eight hours, the volunteers’ endless energy and enthusiasm brought 528 votes from the people of Kazakhstan to the global conversation. Teenagers, university students, young mothers and fathers, business people, grandmothers and grandfathers shared their vision for the Kazakhstan’s future.
The most pressing issues turned out to be good education, better healthcare, and better job opportunities, results which mirrored the current status of online votes on MY World from Kazakhstan.
Yet the promotion of MY World also proved a memorable and rewarding experience for the young volunteers on a personal level. Aleksei Kim, one of the volunteers, shared his story of how he talked to a young man, “who had some problems with Russian, […] so I tried to help him by explaining these points in Kazakh; and […] then he was very happy to participate in such a big event.” Aleksei smiles from ear to ear as he recounts this anecdote. When he remembers the boy’s mother’s pride to have her son partake in the global survey, it is a case in point for volunteerism’s reciprocal and powerful impact.
And the volunteers’ positive energy effortlessly translated onto the respondents. The only difficulty was the predicament of choice the participants faced, as one woman fittingly summarized: “Boshe Moi [Oh my God], these issues are all important! How am I supposed to select only six?!”.
Yet positioning youth at the forefront of their activities did not end there for the UNV Kazakhstan team. At a two-day workshop organized by the National Volunteer Network for 100 youth volunteers in the East Kazakhstan region, representatives of rural youth organizations were introduced to and participated in the MY World survey. Saulet Gabbas, a long-term volunteer for the local NGO “Samruk”, asserted that volunteers promoting MY World was a hand-in-glove combination. With a core quality of volunteers being that “they are not indifferent to what is happening in our country; and these people are willing to act, […] and to achieve certain peaks in the development process of the country”, Saulet was keen to spread the word about MY World in his community. In conversation with the UNV Kazakhstan Team, Member of the Lower House of Kazakhstan’s Parliament Meyram Begentayev revealed his personal conundrum when filling out the paper-ballot: “You know, I have three different approaches to this survey, one as a father, one as a politician, one as a citizen – can I fill in three ballots?”.
While reconciling these roles was left to Mr Begentayev’s judgment, there was a common thread uniting all respondents to the MY World outreach campaign organized by UNV Kazakhstan. Participants’ profound interest in participating and beyond that their enthusiasm to engage in a discussion about their priorities demonstrated not only that MY World’s global vision of a better future resonates with the people of Kazakhstan, but perfectly exemplified the powerful impact volunteerism has as a tool for community engagement. Moreover, young volunteers’ contagious energy makes the difference in ensuring MY World lives up to its promise of inclusive participation.
In the ongoing process of engaging voices from Kazakhstan in the global conversation, the volunteers will continue to actively seek solutions and take action for shaping the world around them. They will make sure to place their stones in building the future we want for Post-2015, both in Kazakhstan and across the world.