As we promised in one of our previous posts, Steppes in Sync is proudly linking you with the newly arrived United Nations Volunteers UNV Programme Officer in Ukraine Mr Shinobu Mashima of Japan.
Before joining UNDP/UNV, Mr Mashima spent several years working for Japanese NGOs both in the field and at headquarters. As a field staff member, he had been working in Indonesia, East Timor and South Sudan. At the HQs, Mr Mashima was in charge of several projects mainly supporting children and youths at risk of either natural or human-caused disasters. He received his B.A. in Development in Africa from the University of Delaware and M.A. in Peace Studies the UK-based University of Bradford.
One of the snow-filled February evenings, we sat down with the new UNV coordinator for Ukraine in a tea house around the corner from the UN House in Kyiv to hear more of his story.
Please briefly tell us about your experience in South Sudan? Why did you become interested in working in Africa?
I was working for a Japanese NGO and was dispatched to South Sudan as a project coordinator. South Sudan became an independent state just one year before I came there. There were so many issues to be tackled including social stability, infrastructure, governance, education, health, etc. Amongst all these issues, our organization concentrated on delivering support to children and youths by providing awareness sessions to children –most of them were so-called “street children”– and vocational trainings. It was an extremely difficult project but I personally believe children and youths are the most vulnerable groups under such a devastating environment and need to be supported as a matter of priority.
The reason that I wanted like to work in Africa was simple: I thought the biggest needs for assistance would have place exactly there in Africa. I still believe this is correct if we look at the size and number of aid-procuring bodies including the UN. But simultaneously I realized that Africa has a capacity of development just like other regions do. I no longer put limitation on my work and interests to Africa but anywhere I could contribute my knowledge and experience.
Who would you say is the most remarkable Japanese person promoting human development in Africa? Maybe professor emeritus at Sophia University Sadako Ogata, who has served as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as the Chairman of the UNICEF Executive Board and as the President of the Japan International Cooperation Agency? Or there are others?
The most remarkable Japanese who dedicated himself/herself to the African development is anonymous. They are likely to live in remote areas and tend to work for the grass-roots projects. They seem to have no interest in self-promotion nor stability in their own lives. I do recognize the significance and achievements of Ms. Sadako Ogata and Mr. Hideo Noguchi [Japanese bacteriologist whose portrait has been featured on Japanese 1000 yen banknotes since 2004]. But here I would rather touch upon the unknown aid workers who are devoting themselves to supporting the local people. I would also mention that “they” can be not only the Japanese but also Ukrainians or of any other nationality.
How can Ukrainian youths become UN Volunteers? What level of expertise is generally required of Ukrainians to become international UN Volunteers?
Please visit our UN Volunteers website. General information about UN Volunteers including the registration and qualifications can be found there. There is FAQs page that might answer to your specific questions.
Regarding the general requirement for International UN Volunteers, it is difficult to define the qualification. Before joining the UN Volunteers, I spent nearly 6 years working for the Japanese NGOs both in the fields and HQs after receiving my B.A. in Development and M.A. in Peace Studies. It took about one year until I finally took this assignment in Ukraine. But I know there are those who have more experience and academic titles but were not yet able to take assignments of this kind. It depends.
Last but not least, UN Volunteers is a great opportunity to be a part of the UN and I look forward to having more registrations from young motivated people.
Steppes in Sync will keep you updated on the interesting people working within the United Nations system especially now that our founder Andy Kozlov embarked on an UNV service as a national volunteer based in Kyiv.
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