UNV volunteers in Chad help homeless improve their living environment

22 Oct 2009

UNV volunteers in Chad help homeless improve their living environment

UNV volunteers in Chad are spending their spare time helping marginalized communities. The houses of 30 families were destroyed during the February 2008 war between rebels and governmental forces and these families are now forced to live in small makeshift shelters. The majority of the community members are children and, in addition to the poor living conditions, many are malnourished and constantly ill from unsanitary living conditions.

The volunteers, working with the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) have been distributing food, soap, mosquito nets, and organized a set of activities to teach the community some principles of personal and environmental hygiene.

UNV volunteer Nurse Joseph Herman Singirankabo from Rwanda delivered a basic personal hygiene training session. "It was my first training to Chadians," said Mr. Singirankabo, "and at the beginning I was a little nervous. Then I realized people were very attentive and appreciated the practical advice I was giving them. At the end of the training, I was surprised and fully satisfied when I saw them translating my suggestions into action."

Another activity involved encouraging the whole community to voluntarily clean up the area where it had settled. Since children constitute a large proportion of the community, they were encouraged to take part so as to learn by practice.

The last action of the day was to distribute to the 30 families food (almost 500 kg of rice, 100 kg of beans, more than 30 kg of sugar and salt, 50 litres of cooking oil and 200 loaves of bread) and non-food items (including 60 mosquito nets, 90 bars of soap) collected from across MINURCAT and other UN agencies.

Though the handouts will not necessarily change the general living conditions of these families, UNV Programme Manager for MINURCAT Iram Batool noted that UNV had provided "an unexpected food support, held a personal and environmental hygiene session and successfully encouraged the families to clean up their living area..."

The day concluded in a positive and cheerful manner. The families were happy to receive easy and customized tips and tricks to keep themselves and their environment clean, recognizing that effort is reduced if every community member volunteers to play their role. "The smiles and cheers from children and community members will remain fresh in memories of UNV volunteers as the first direct interaction with their host population," said UNV volunteer Public Information Officer Filippo Busconi.