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Volunteering for our Planet – Rebuilding Zimbabwe

Volunteering for our Planet – Rebuilding Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe will be joining the rest of the world in commemorating the International Volunteer Day that falls on the 5th of December each year. While the global theme for the day has been declared as “Volunteering for the Planet”, Zimbabwe, through a working group that takes the lead in preparations for the day, has adapted the theme to “Volunteering for Our Planet – Rebuilding Zimbabwe”. As time is fast approaching, achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015 depends on the participation of ordinary people in development. It is in this spirit that ordinary Zimbabweans see it fit to volunteer their time, services, skills and resources, to ensure that Zimbabwe is not left behind, despite the many upheavals experienced over the last decade.

The International Volunteer Day, also known as IVD, was established by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 40/212 on 17 December 1985. Since then, governments, the UN system and civil society organizations have successfully joined volunteers around the world to celebrate the Day on 5 December.

The habits that we have acquired over the decades have been seen as the culprit in the adverse climate conditions that we are currently seeing the world over. Zimbabwe has not been spared from such vagaries as floods, droughts, and raging fires that have destroyed human and animal life, as well as vegetation. Zimbabwe has also seen a deterioration of services as the protracted economic decline and political upheavals have ushered in lethargy in service delivery and maintenance of utilities. Such things as safe water and sanitation have become a daily struggle for the majority of Zimbabweans, whether they live in a rural, an urban, or a farming community. There has been land degradation caused by farming practices that focused on quick profits and not the long-term sustainability of land productivity. There have been harmful manufacturing practices in terms of the disposal of waste end-products and emissions. These harmful practices have become the order of the day when it comes to household waste-disposal as well, where in urban settings the municipalities no longer prioritise collection and disposal of domestic waste. The lack of provision of efficient power and energy for such basic necessities as cooking and heating has seen our forests getting depleted. The range is wide of such practices that have caused much harm to our environment, thereby causing a negative shift in climate patterns. Today we suffer for that, but we have a chance to salvage the situation through our efforts to correct and shift our habits to those that will correct and contribute to a positive shift in the climate.

It is clear, then that to combat the harmful practices that have a negative impact on our environment and contribute to adverse climate conditions that are making it more difficult for our planet to be habitable; everyone needs to be conscious of every little habit and the possible bearing on climate change. The mobilization and strengthening of local capacity enables people to actively contribute to fighting poverty and disadvantages. Volunteering strengthens the ability of people to participate in their communities and influence decisions that affect their lives. It also fosters community ownership and maximum participation. The range of areas where volunteers are involved and can emphasize the great importance of caring for the environment while rebuilding Zimbabwe and also caring for the planet is wide.

Zimbabwe has a very high burden of communicable diseases, and a great focus has been on HIV & AIDS which has resulted in ensuring a high awareness of health issues and rights among communities. Treatment literacy and advocacy for access to health services, especially around HIV & AIDS, has largely been carried out by volunteers. Advocates in Zimbabwe have volunteered their time around universal access issues through loose coalition bodies such as Zimbabwe Activists on HIV & AIDS (ZAHA), Southern African Treatment Access Movement (SATAMo), Pan-African Treatment Access Movement (PATAM), and International Treatment Preparedness Coalition (ITPC). Through these bodies, among others, Zimbabwean volunteer advocates have contributed to community awareness around more than just health issues. This will be an ideal platform to ensure as communities tackle such issues as health and poverty, they incorporate the caring for the environment. With the deteriorating political and socio-economic situation that has seen most essential public services collapsing, it is the volunteering spirit of many Zimbabweans that has risen to the occasion to ensure that services reach those who may otherwise not access them. This has also been evident through the national medical association (ZIMA) and Eyes for Africa taking time from their private practices to go to communities to deliver much needed specialized care.

People living with HIV & AIDS (PLHIV) have also contributed much in the fight against stigma and discrimination through their disclosure, sharing their lived experiences, while contributing their professional expertise in various areas of industry, development, and the social fabric of Zimbabwe. In terms of ensuring widespread awareness and action around rebuilding he nation and contributing to volunteering for the planet, PLHIV a valuable resource to lead initiatives in their communities as they are already perceived as leaders within their localities and social networks. Zimbabweans have made it a priority to propel their country forward by volunteering on a daily basis and the hope is that December 5 will further strengthen the numbers of volunteers who fight for better health systems, greater rights, environmental protection and many other afflictions that have held Zimbabwe back in the past. With the optimism that is evident all round and the cheerful faces that one sees whether they move around urban or rural communities, our nation is set for keeping on in full steam towards attaining the Millennium Development Goals.

. This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.

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