Photos: SCDP/UNDP

Youth volunteers mobilized with support from UNDP in Birgunj have proven themselves a great asset to the community by connecting service providers and seekers, exemplified by a recent campaign to help senior citizens better access social security allowances

For many senior citizens in Birgunj, particularly in the more rural parts, the process of accessing public services can be exceedingly difficult to navigate. Illiteracy and the obstacles posed by this in comprehending and completing different steps in the process is certainly one aspect of the problem; another is the fact that with most young members of the family having left for the capital or foreign countries to work, the elderly are compelled to fend for themselves; and thirdly, lack of public transportation poses yet another challenge. These factors became starkly evident in the recent drive by the Birgunj metropolitan office to renew senior citizens’ records and their identity cards for the provision of social security allowances.

To ensure these vulnerable citizens were not left behind in claiming their allowances, a youth volunteers’ centre joined hands with the local government to reach out directly to rural settlements and conduct service camps in these areas to help the elderly—as well as single women, persons with disabilities, and members of marginalized communities—arrange the required documentation. Altogether, 35 youth volunteers—mobilized with the support of UNDP’s Social Cohesion and Democratic Participation (SCDP) Programme—together with municipal staff, worked for three days to update records and collect signatures and thumb prints from the service seekers.

Local representatives, municipal staffs, and civil society members have appreciated this proactive commitment to social responsibility on the part of the youth. “Around 300 people were able to get their records and ID cards renewed through the camps,” said the chief of ward-23 Awadh Kishor Kushwaha. “Many senior citizens who were eligible for the allowance had previously not been able to receive it, but the efforts of these young people have enabled them to exercise their right to social security.”

Senior citizens who came to the camp also praised the volunteers’ initiative. “It’s wonderful to see youth working with local government to bring these services to our door, given how difficult it can be for people like me to walk long distances to go to different offices,” said Kanti Devi Baiha, a local senior citizen. “It’s made us feel included and restored a sense of self-respect.”

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