Volunteering as an opportunity to shape our world

My name is Isotta de Zandonati, I am a Master student in “International Relations and Diplomacy” at the University of Padova. In 2020, I graduated in “Political Sciences, International Relations, Human Rights” at the same university. I am Italian and I come from Venice. I decided to study Human Rights and then Diplomacy because my dream job is to be a diplomat. I consider myself an International Law geek and I am excited to make my contribution in shaping our future world. Little by little, I am already trying to do that!


In the past few years, I was involved in many extra-curricular activities and one of them was volunteering. In particular, in the summertime of 2020 I joined the Younicef team of the UNICEF Committee in Padova. The team engages many young volunteers to make the local community a better place for children. A very important aspect of volunteering with Younicef is that volunteers always decide their own participation all together, depending on their commitments. In fact, the organization considers that we all have many things to do, and I really appreciate that. To me, this flexibility made volunteering always enriching and never stressful.


For our Committee it is important to create networks within the civil society. For instance, in September 2020 we had a really interesting event with many other UNICEF Committees of the Veneto Region and “Associazione Amici del Villaggio”, in the presence of many children. Those were really special children, since they were the members of the Regional Council for boys and girls. We worked in groups to debate and share ideas on different issues, such as environmental protection, psychological help, and migration. During our meeting, I moderated a discussion on what the local institutions should do to protect the environment, and afterwards I even had theopportunity to write an article for the Association’s journal focused on environmental protection. It was really exciting for me to discover a new reality of active citizenship. I did not know something like that even existed in the Veneto Region!

I enjoy volunteering for UNICEF because I make real connections with people of various ages: from children to elderlies. An example is the event we organized in the park “Esperanto” in Padova, during which we played the game “tombola”. Actually, it was a really unusual one! We invented the “tombola of the rights” where we used the articles of the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989 as our boards. It was really mind-blowing seeing children’s faces while we read those (simplified) articles: we did not expect them to understand everything. From that experience, I understood how essential it is to talk about Human Rights from a very young age. At the same time, I also made connections with older people. Indeed, in the context of the 75th anniversary of the founding of the organization, UNICEF launched the amazing "Wisdom Project". For that initiative, I asked my grandmothers and a friend to talk about their experiences during the Second World War. Then, I edited some videos out of their statements that were shared in the UNICEF Italy media channels. It was a really touching experience that made me realize how lucky I am.


To conclude, during this incredible volunteering experience I had undertaken many tasks, met with different people, approached various themes, and deepened my knowledge on many issues. Two things surprised me. First, the differentiation of topics the Committee deals with, while always adopting a children’s rights perspective. Second, the organization’s work at the local level. In fact, when I thought about UNICEF, I used to have in mind humanitarian interventions. By volunteering in the local delegation, I discovered that the organization embraces a local approach, meaning that it tends to prefer locals, rather than international staff. For example, I could not leave for humanitarian aid abroad in those we call “developing countries” because locals are the principal protagonists of UNICEF’s actions there. I really like this approach since it values the different realities of our world and it acknowledges locals know best their territory and their people.


Written by Isotta De Zandonati

Edited by Giulia Rosina

Photo courtesy of Isotta De Zandonati

 

Isotta is a Master student in “International Relations and Diplomacy” at the University of Padova. Her field of interests are Public International Law, Refugee Law, and Environmental Protection. She was also a mentor for the project “Mentorship - Towards an Italian network of inclusive universities”. Follow Isotta on LinkedIn @Isotta De Zandonati and on Instagram @this.is.otta.

 

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