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Volunteering for a more child-friendly and greener Viet Nam
Hanoi, 11 October 2011
Ewout Stoefs

 
(UNV Vietnam) - Ewout, a 26 year old Belgian, has been working at the Country Office of UNICEF Viet Nam as a United Nations Volunteer Intern since February 2011.

I am currently working as a Capacity Building and Monitoring & Evaluation Officer for the UNICEF office in Ha Noi. I work for a programme called the ‘Provincial Child Friendly Programme’, which aims to strengthen the capacity of Viet Nam’s provinces to tackle children’s issues. Over the past few years the country has seen a huge wave of decentralization. The provinces now have far more autonomy, but often lack the capacity to consider children when implementing their plans and programmes. My work at UNICEF contributes to building such capacity and improving the knowledge of provincial officials on child-sensitive social policies.
 
The majority of my time is spent assessing the needs of the provinces (what gaps in capacity exist in the field?), preparing programme documents (how can UNICEF interventions address these gaps?) and developing strategies for our engagement at the decentralized level. I often have the opportunity to travel to the different provinces and consult with local authorities.
 
Aside from these ‘regular tasks’, I have joined with all the other UNV’s in Ha Noi in committing to being a ‘Green Champion’. In Viet Nam, all the UN agencies are preparing to move towards a ‘One UN Green House’ by the end of 2012 as part of the ‘Delivering as One Initiative’. Instead of waiting until this time, we have decided to already start ‘greening’ our actions and call upon others to follow our example. As a young and highly motivated ‘inter-agency’ group, UNV’s can have a real impact when they coordinate their advocacy for behavioural change in their various host agencies.
 
In September 2011 we launched our three-month ‘Greening the One UN in Viet Nam’ campaign, aiming to reduce the environmental impact of the UN’s operations in Viet Nam. As a group we contributed to drafting the ‘Green Action Plan’, with specific targets and indicators that will help us gain the World Wildlife Fund’s ‘Green Office Certificate’. Many of the campaign’s activities are spear-headed by Green Champion UNV’s - for example, we are organizing ‘green lunches’ (i.e. vegetarian) and green film screenings (or ‘SGREENINGS’, as we like to call them). One major challenge is improving the environmental friendliness of our transport. Getting people to bike to work when it’s 38 degrees centigrade and humidity is 98 per cent is no easy task! But that won’t stop us!

Cycling to work ‘sustainably’ between some of Ha Noi’s many motorcycles
 
For me personally, it has been a tremendous experience to live and work in such a fascinating country. I have learned much about Vietnamese culture and tradition, and working here has refined my intercultural skills.
 
Not a day goes by that I don’t feel lucky to have the opportunity of being a volunteer here.
 
 
 
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