Be a United Nations volunteer… from your own home

I have mentioned this before, but it has been a while, so please bear with me if you are already aware of it. The United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme contributes to peace and development through volunteerism worldwide. Online volunteering allows organizations and volunteers to help address sustainable development challenges – anywhere in the world, from any device.

What started as mainly demand for translation skills has now developed into an array of ways to volunteer, including art & design, writing & editing, research, technology development, teaching, project management, event organization and several more areas too.

It’s a really flexible way to make a difference.

How it works

Non-profit organizations working for peace and development – UN agencies, governments & public institutions and civil society organizations – register their details. They are reviewed and approved if eligible. The organizations complete an online entry explaining what they need, and the volunteering opportunities are published if they meet the UNV criteria.

Volunteers can search for opportunities that interest them and apply, on a case-by-case basis. So you can volunteer once a year, once a month… whatever frequency suits you, and for the tasks that best suit you.

Through the online platform, you can consult current opportunities, and according to your availability, make an application. You complete a simple form to explain your motivation, experience, skills and availability – in terms both of total hours and the times that you are free.

Then, the organizations select the volunteer(s) they want to engage, and you collaborate online. Once the task has been completed, both volunteers and organizations provide feedback on their collaboration. Finally, organizations issue an electronic certificate of appreciation to their volunteers – so the work can even be beneficial for your CV.

Just to give you a flavour, some current opportunities have included: translating a 2-page transcription of an advocacy video from English to Brazilian Portuguese, legal research uploading documents in Russian on one of the UNCITRAL databases, or conducting online English classes for children/youth in West Bengal.

I’d really encourage you to have a look at the website (which is very user-friendly, by the way). At all times you have control of how much you do, so it’s easy to combine with work, studies and life in general. Which of us can say that we can’t spare a few hours a year from the comfort of our sofa to make a difference in the wider world?


One thought on “Be a United Nations volunteer… from your own home

  1. In reply to a comment posted criticizing the above program… As I understand the UNV system, it is not the UN itself that requests assistance with translation for its own internal needs, but NGOs, who are vetted by the UN to go onto the online platform.

    For example documents for Volunteer Partnerships for West Africa, an NGO based in Ghana wanting to translate its website. Or a website for the Child Rehabilitation Centre in Sri Lanka.
    Or Karen Tse’s International Bridges to Justice project.

    Now I daresay that these organizations might obtain funding to purchase translation if they were able to go through a long and competitive application process (and knew how to do it), but would that be the best use of their resources?

    Each person is obviously free to make their own choices about pro bono work according to individual circumstances, and according to the cause/charity requesting help, but I am not sure that we can demonize volunteering across the board. What do you think?

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