Volunteerism building solidarity and solutions transcending borders

Volunteerism: building solidarity and solutions transcending borders

02 November 2020

Friends from Thailand (FFT) volunteer Sompong Woragool helps farmers in Tuane,
Mozambique, catch and raise rabbits in traditional cages.

Cooperation is the right thing to do and volunteerism is one way where everyone can do their part in making the world a better and happier place. “Initially, some people didn’t believe I could do anything. I was only 28 years old at that time, but I said, ‘join me and we will learn together”,” said Suphawit Pharom, a volunteer with the Friends from Thailand (FFT) volunteer programme on his experiences in Mozambique.

FFT volunteer Phuttiphum Arsanok helps farmers in Djakotomey, a town in Benin, adapt local materials to make equipment for organic fertilizers.

Since 2003, more than 160 people have volunteered through the programme, which places them for one or two years in countries across Asia and Africa, where they use their expertise to contribute to Thailand’s development cooperation projects.

The programme aims to promote partnerships at the local level, providing technical advice in its main development areas, including agriculture, public health, technology, education, carpentry, eco-tourism, local products development and community development based on the sufficiency economy philosophy, while highlighting the people-to-people aspect of Thailand’s development cooperation.

FFT volunteers Sompong Woragool and Piched Khammeekan help students in Tuane, Mozambique, transport banana trees to their school garden.

FFT volunteer Nisanart Yeamkhong supports the COVID-19 data entry and processing team at the Royal Centre for Disease Control in Bhutan as part of her work to set up a quality management system in the laboratory.

The programme represents global best practices on volunteering described in the recently launched publication “South-South Volunteering as a Driving Force for Development: Experiences from Asia and the Pacific” by United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, United Nations Office for SouthSouth Cooperation and the Thailand International Cooperation Agency (TICA), Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Beyond the programme’s mission to “cultivate friendship and better understanding between the people of Thailand and those of our development partners”, the FFT programme also ensures the projects’ alignment with Thailand’s 20-year National Strategy. Indeed, it also encourages a new look at development cooperation through the lens of volunteerism, itself being an innovative, yet not widely-known approach. “I think cooperation is the right thing to do and volunteerism is one way where everyone can do their part in making the world a better and happier place,” said Phuttiphum Arsanok, another FFT volunteer in Benin, about his volunteer experience.

Volunteering is often one of the first experiences of civic engagement for young people. It is also a way to build skills for future employability and act upon issues that matter to youth, such as climate change, peace, gender equality and economic empowerment. One billion people globally are active volunteers, and around one in three young people report that they are volunteering – nearly 600 million youth worldwide. The prime minister of Thailand, in his keynote address on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the UN Global Compact and the 75th anniversary of the UN, said Thailand is committed to increasing participation of all sectors in sustainable national development, especially by engaging the civil society, academia, and the general public in the form of volunteer work. Thai people are generous, and this is proven by the fact that there are more than 10 million registered and non-registered volunteers. Volunteerism provides space for the public to participate in the development process and can also play a role in localising government policies at the community level and

helping the voices of the people be heard during the policy development process. The FFT Programme is also an opportunity to develop the skills of young people through their experiences, demonstrating volunteerism’s value as a two-way learning process. During their assignments, volunteers develop skills, increase their understanding of development, and gain international experience in line with national priorities. Through the programme, Thai youth, aged 22-35, who have at least a bachelor’s degree, have been recruited and prepared to work abroad as FFT volunteers.