Meet 40 year old Maksuda Muhsinbaeva, Community Volunteer Coordinator based in Namangan, the most populous city in the Fergana Valley in Eastern Uzbekistan.
She has a background in psychology, a decade-long record in community development with both local and international organizations, and is now one of several National United Nations Volunteers throughout the regions of Uzbekistan.
The project that Maksuda is part of, Social Innovation and Volunteerism in Uzbekistan, is led jointly by UNDP and UN Volunteers. Its mission is to create an environment that’s more supportive of youth volunteerism, civic engagement, and to encourage the use of innovative approaches to tackle community challenges.
The project is based in the capital, Tashkent, and it has no national counterpart, so bringing the project’s benefits outside the capital is a challenge. Given that there’s a considerable opportunity gap between the well-developed metropolitan area of Tashkent and provincial cities (not to mention more rural regions), it’s imperative to make sure the project reaches these areas too.
This is where Community Volunteer Coordinators like Maksuda come in. They help deliver the benefits of initiatives like small grants schemes, social innovation workshops or youth-run debating clubs, tried and tested in Tashkent, throughout the country.
It’s satisfying but challenging work. In addition to representing the project at a local level, a Community Volunteer Coordinator’s responsibilities include:
- Training volunteer leaders, civil society organizations and local authorities on various aspects of community action and development
- Supporting and helping manage local volunteer-driven mini-grant initiatives
- Facilitating local volunteer initiatives through participatory village development planning
- Partnering with local administrations and stakeholders to promote community development and support for volunteer initiatives
- Raising awareness and support for citizen engagement
Maksuda spoke to me about what she’s working on, to give some insight on what a Community Volunteer Coordinator’s average working day looks like:
“Today I will help conduct HIV and AIDS training that the local volunteers have organized. Yesterday, I looked through their slides and gave them feedback on their presentation, as well as prepared information booklets to be distributed to participants.
“I also finished the first version of an infographic for our ‘school for volunteers’ and started to prepare for the next meeting of our discussion club on development topics.
“Along with planned events, there are also everyday routine tasks like answering calls and e-mails, and of course every day I find some time for a cup of coffee and lunch.”
Maksuda enjoys doing her job and being able to make a difference in the Fergana Valley.
“Volunteers are people whose kindness and compassion come through in any situation and who always stay true to themselves and others, radiating confidence and warmth. One cannot help but feel deep respect for them.”
Given her appreciation for volunteers and the benefits they bring to their communities, a key priority for Maksuda is to strengthen the culture of volunteerism in the region:
“It is important to link up volunteers as one united team, so they can share their experiences and support each other, while showcasing their accomplishments to the wider population.
“As a matter of fact, much of the population is still unaware of the important work volunteers do. Volunteers engaged in organizations are vulnerable because there is no specific documentation protecting their rights.
“If we can protect, educate, and unite volunteers and increase the number of long-term volunteers, I think it will make a valuable contribution to the development of volunteerism, and to the development of our region more generally.”
Please join me in thanking Maskuda for her enthusiasm, and wishing her all the best for achieving her ambitious goal of promoting volunteerism in the Fergana Valley.
And if you’re interested in volunteer work, be sure to check out the opportunities offered by United Nations Volunteers.