UN Volunteers Overcome Adversity to Help People Succeed UN Volunteers Overcome Adversity to Help People Succeed

Two volunteers in Kenya and Cambodia face sociopolitical challenges as they work to give students an opportunity to join the global economy.

Strengthening Academies in Kenya

Persistence and resourcefulness are critical characteristics of the United Nations Volunteers who work with the Cisco Networking Academy program to train instructors and help students gain networking skills. In Kenya, for example, UN Volunteer Emmanuel Odemba works closely with schools and government agencies.

Despite the social upheaval following Kenya's national elections in 2008, in a single quarter, Odemba helped establish workforce committees at two academies, designed a website that connects Networking Academy students at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology with potential employers, organized instructor training, helped solve curriculum adoption problems, and helped publicize the Networking Academy program in several communities. He also organized an event aimed at encouraging women to take advantage of free Internet connectivity at a local academy, which helped them identify the best markets for their farm produce.

Connecting Students in Cambodia

While working to establish an academy at the Institute of Technology of Cambodia (ITC), Sophany Hong, a UN Volunteer who works with the UNESCO Next Generation Teacher Project, found that in some cases, instructors were unable to connect to the Internet to create online courses. He also discovered that few students at ITC knew about the Networking Academy courses or their benefits. Hong worked with the instructors to solve their connectivity glitches, and then conducted a workshop to introduce students to the program. As a result of his efforts, more than 50 students enrolled in the first Cisco IT Essentials course at ITC.

Working Together for Greater Impact

Since 2000, Cisco has partnered with the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) program to improve ICT training opportunities for underserved populations. The goal is to promote sustainable development by helping people prepare for jobs in the global economy.

Many of the communities served by these volunteers face significant obstacles to development. An academy in Kibera, for instance, is located within one of the largest slums in Africa, a 630-acre district in Nairobi where approximately a million people live in makeshift dwellings with virtually no sanitation or running water. In such impoverished surroundings, it is hard for people to see a way out of their condition, which is why role models and mentors are so important.

"I organized a visit to the Kibera academy by five advanced students from the Kenya School of Professional Studies, who were able to share their skills and mentor the female students," Odemba recalls. "A former Networking Academy student shared her work experience with the girls and encouraged them to continue their studies."

The volunteers also rely on partnerships with educational institutions and government agencies to fulfill their objectives. "In Cambodia, public high schools offer free education, so they play a critical role in supporting students who cannot afford private education," says Hong. "By integrating the IT Essentials curriculum into these schools, we can reach thousands of students. My ultimate aim is to help the Cambodian people attain a better life."

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