Ghanaian Engineer recommends voluntary service

05 Dec 2013

image Eng. Kweku Adoah Bassaw crossing a flooded section of the road from Yirol County and Aluak-luak in Lakes State after his UNDP vehicle got stuck. © Charles Okwir/UNDP

By Charles Okwir 

The debate about the value of volunteerism is settled.  Most people know that it is a powerful means of engaging people to tackle development challenges.  But what’s in it for me, one might ask?  Volunteerism benefits both society and the volunteer by purposefully creating opportunities for participation, strengthening trust, solidarity, and reciprocity. 

Kweku Adoah Bassaw’s story of volunteering for the cause of community peace and security is the true embodiment of the core values of volunteerism – namely: “free will, commitment, engagement and solidarity” with the people of South Sudan.  

A 32 year old Civil Engineer from Ghana, Kweku shares how he came to be in South Sudan as a Volunteer Civil Engineer posted to Rumbek in Lakes State with UNDP’s Community Security and Arms Control (CSAC) project.  Here, he narrates the experiences that have made his work in South Sudan worthwhile, and also describes his close encounter with a Hyena.  So how did Kweku find himself in South Sudan? 

“An email from United Nations Volunteers (UNV) popped into my inbox and I read that UNDP South Sudan had chosen me to support state building in the worlds’ newest member of the community of nations.” Kweku said.

He also described what he does, saying: “as Project Engineer, I manage the infrastructure work component of UNDP Community Security and Arms Control project’s support to the government of Lakes State.   I do technical assessments, design and prepare technical specifications, prepare ‘Bills of Quantities’, and monitor contractors’ performance.  I also provide technical advice to government counterparts through the CSAC State Steering Committee.” Kweku explains. 

When asked whether he thought he was making a positive difference to the lives of ordinary people in Lakes state, Kweku’s response was as emphatic as it was passionate:  

“Imagine waking up every morning to walk 12 hours to fetch unclean water to drink.  Imagine living where armed attacks, killings, and violent cattle raids are common place.  Thousands of women and children live under these unfortunate conditions.  They have accepted their plight because they are in some ways powerless to change it.” he said, before adding, “that is why I happily stepped in to volunteer so that we work with the affected communities to find sustainable solutions to their security problems.  Today, people who had fled their homes have started returning to rebuild their lives – and I am happy that my contribution has helped some people to regain the peace and dignity that is associated with living in one’s own home.”  

In Kweku’s view, there is absolutely no debate about the nobility of the cause that compelled him to leave his home in the Ghanaian capital Accra for life in Rumbek.  But he must surely have faced challenges that caused him to question his decision to volunteer in a post-conflict setting. 

“The challenges are countless.  Professional capacities are still in their infancy.  The poor roads and insecurity associated with the remote areas where UNDP-CSAC project works can make work difficult.  But the job wouldn’t be fascinating without those challenges.  I have weathered the storm so far, and God willing, I will continue.” says Kweku.

Over a feast of meat with spicy ‘pepe soup’ from West Africa, Kweku narrated the story of coming face to face with wild animals as he slept in his UNDP vehicle during a field mission. 

“I was in Upper Nile State at the time.  The dry season was setting in – so I seized the opportunity to visit project sites in Galachuol Payam that had been unsupervised due to inaccessibility.  However, as we drove back to the state capital Malakal, the heavens opened with a heavy downpour of rain.  The entire Upper Nile State has black cotton soil, so even tractors get stuck in heavy rain.  Unsurprisingly, our vehicle got stuck in a forest.  At about 1 a.m., a Hyena came very close to the vehicle I was sleeping in – and almost made it inside!  For someone like me who had never seen a cow until I came to South Sudan, it was both fascinating and scary.”

Asked whether he would recommend anyone for a voluntary assignment in South Sudan, Kweku advanced the cause of service to the underprivileged as his rallying call.  “My decision to work in an environment like South Sudan came out of my empathy with underprivileged people and the pursuit of world peace and security.  Working here has been a fulfilling experience, and I would strongly recommend a UNV assignment to any Ghanaian who wants to create a positive impact on underprivileged people.” said Kweku.

If you are interested in becoming a UN Volunteer, visit http://www.unv.org/how-to-volunteer.html

For further information, please contact:

Murtaza Shibli, Head of Communications, a.i, UNDP South Sudan; murtaza.shibli@undp.org; Cell: (+211) 956 213 014

Charles Okwir, Communications Specialist, Community Security and Small Arms Control, UNDP South Sudan; charles.okwir@undp.org; Cell: (+211) 954 396 338