Working with volunteers: Transforming people in distress to pools of knowledge

For the past years, Community Initiative for Sustainable Development (COMINUSUD) in its quest to promote community engagement, development and accountability has been building a strong network of community volunteers in the North West Region. Little did it even foresee that this network of volunteers may subsequently serve in a situation of crisis?

But it has come to pass with the outbreak of the now Anglophone crisis in November 2016. From a socio-political crisis it metamorphosed into a deadly armed conflict. This has resulted to thousands of displaced persons either moving out of their usual habitat, out of the Region and some to neighbouring countries especially Nigeria.

To adapt to this new dispensation, COMINSUD developed a project titled “TRANSFORMING PEOPLE IN DISTRESS TO POOLS OF KNOWLEDGE”.

OBJECTIVES:

  • To have a network of community volunteers to contribute in Community Engagement and accountability
  • Contribute to transforming those in distress to pools of knowledge.

REALISATIONS:

We now have a network of 50 trained volunteers (5 of them who are now permanent) from all 7 Divisions of the North West Region. 21 of this community based volunteers are internally displaced persons who were empowered during a workshop and later integrated into the transforming people in distress to pools of knowledge project.

APPROACHES/STRATEGIES:

Most of these volunteers have taken part in the following trainings aimed at re-enforcing their knowledge, skills and attitudes to enable then to be veritable community agents of change especially in a crisis situation.

  • Volunteering training organized by COMINSUD in August 2018 to enlighten the volunteers on what volunteering is and is not, the advantages of volunteering etc.
  • Workshop on Project Proposal Writing held at COMINSUD conference hall and organized by COMINSUD from the 8 – 10 August, 2018. This workshop was aimed giving more understanding to the volunteers on the various steps and aspects in project proposal writing.
  • Workshop on the provision of Psychological First Aid to Internally Displaced Persons – IDPs in North West Region, notably women, girls and boys on the 17 October 2018 at COMINSUD in Bamenda.
  • Workshop on Social Inclusion, Humanitarian Action and Peace Work in the Context of Conflict organized by COMINSUD and funded by UNFPA

CHANGES/IMPACT OF THE ACTIONS

  • Having a network of volunteers covering all the 7 Division of the North West Region has greatly increased our access to certain inaccessible communities.
  • Through the TRANSFORMING PEOPLE IN DISTRESS TO POOLS OF KNOWLEDGE initiative, we have been able to empower at least 21 IDPs giving them hope.

LESSONS 

  • Community development is valuable to the targeted communities when Community Engagement and Accountability is promoted.
  • Internally Displaced Persons shouldn’t be only seen as needy people but persons with pools of knowledge that can be transformed into agents of change.

CHALLENGES

  • The difficult and insecure working environments across the region.
  • Most of the transformed IDPs cannot give the optimal best due to lack or insufficient financial means.

In spite of the challenges COMINSUD is striving to ensure that community engagement and accountability should be promoted through the engagement of Community Volunteers and members of the concerned communities.

Nfon Peter

Volunteer and Youth Coordinator