By Rohey Jadama The volunteers Network of the Gambia (VOLNET) organized a two-day general meeting from the 7 to the 8 of November at the President’s International Award Hall in Bakau. Speaking at the occasion, the UNDP Regional Outreach –Coordinator, Mr. Paansu Sanneh, gave brief background of VOLNET and the way forward. He said the UNDP in partnership with the Gambia government came up with the idea of how volunteers’ efforts could be harnessed, maximized and factored into our national gross domestic product. “The output of this idea resulted in piloting volunteer involvement programme such as the national volunteer teacher’s programme which was spearheaded by VSO and supported by UNDP. At the grassroots level, the UNDP and Gambia government funded NVSC was piloted in two regions (LRR and URR) as a project that shall sensitize and harness and consolidate all volunteers involving organizations and institutionalize them under one umbrella in a quest to legalize their statuses and streamline their efforts towards the attainment of the MDGs”, said the UNDP outreach coordinator. During this period, added Mr. Sanneh, a coordinating committee of individuals coming from various VIOs that are internationally recognized was put in place tentatively to facilitate the up coming of a network that shall be called VOLNET.GAM which in the near future shall function through a secretariat. “When all was said and done, the project was evaluated and deemed necessary to be permanently institutionalized through an Act which has to be passed and adopted by the National Assembly but not until a policy framework has been done and validated. This is what qualifies us today to cross examine the policy, ratify and adopt it to legalize the secretariat  and the regional chapters and representatives of offices”, said Mr. Sanneh. The Chairperson of VOLNET, Mr. Adama  Beyai, said not withstanding that they were faced with a lot of challenges, they have registered numerous achievements and today a  new board is coming in to move volunteerism. He highlighted the achievements registered during his tenure, and said they have carried out a lot of advocacy programmmes in the media and communities and also conducted a nation wide tour wherein they met with the VIO in all the regions. “We partnered with the American Embassy during the celebration of volunteerism week. We have a policy in place called the volunteers policy spearheaded by the ministry of Finance with the support of UNDP and we have a strong financial manual with us, which many strong NGOs don’t have. We have a fully equipped office at the Gambia Red Cross society building with internet facility and it was given to us by GRCS free of charge,” said Chairperson Beyai. He said their major challenges are financial and telephone resources. Maimuna Bah Trawally, a board member of the VOLNET said the world cannot move without volunteers and it was through commitment that they were able to achieve all that they had achieved today. She used the platform to thank the UNDP, GRCS and the volunteers who came to grace the meeting.  ]]>

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