International Day of UN Volunteers: Eugene Kang Kum, Cameroon
YAMBIO - 34-year-old Eugene Kang Kum, from Cameroon is an electrical engineer and is serving as a United Nations Volunteer since 2019. Currently, he is supervising and managing the electrical unit in the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) field office in Yambio, Western Equatoria. In this heartfelt interview, Eugene tells us about his work, why volunteering means so much to him and his experiences in the world’s youngest nation.
Can you tell us the highlights of your work as a UN Volunteer and a little bit about what you do every day?
My work is quite technical—I’m an engineer by profession and in the UNMISS base in Yambio, my team and I are responsible for ensuring all electrical networks and equipment function seamlessly, in offices as well as in the accommodations allocated to peacekeepers.
The highlight of my work as a UN Volunteer came during 2020, during the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Sudan.
Yambio county wasn’t equipped with a quarantine facility for patients who had contracted the virus. All of us as engineers assessed a hotel facility that had earlier been looted and my team and I installed a 75KVA generator here, trained an operator on how to run and maintain the generator, worked with a local contractor to set up the electrical systems of the building and make sure it was up and running to shelter patients. It was a tough job but immensely satisfying.
How has your work impacted on peace outcomes for the people you serve?
Serving the mission and the people of South Sudan has been a privilege on all counts. I think the training and capacity building I’ve been able to do with local collaborators as well as my national colleagues has been impactful. It has enabled them to become more professional and competent; learning electrical skills can economically empowering.
I’d also like to mention of the work my team and I have done in enabling UNMISS establish a temporary base in Tambura, which has seen an outbreak of violence and displacement in recent months. It was imperative that our military peacekeepers establish a protective presence there as soon as possible and we, as engineers, dropped everything we were working on to help set up the base so that Blue Helmets could have boots on the ground as soon as possible.
I think every effort counts when it comes to saving innocent lives and building peace step by step.
How does UNMISS value your contributions?
I have been lucky to be appreciated by my peers, my supervisors and by local interlocuters from the communities we serve. I have had a really enriching time working with UNMISS and I hope I’ve managed to give back to the mission as much as I have got from it.
What have been your greatest challenges and lessons in South Sudan?
My greatest challenge has been working with a multicultural team. We have to synchronize different ways of working, language can be a barrier. Conversely, my greatest challenge has also been the greatest learning experience of my life. I think we have raised the bar when it comes to teamwork and been able to deliver much-needed support to colleagues while adhering to stringent timelines. Also, being away from family for long stretches of time is hard, but at the end, it’s worth it. The team spirit and willingness to serve of UN Volunteers can be contagious. Also, just because a nation is in the middle of conflict doesn’t mean life is always dangerous. I have fun and happy memories of South Sudan, especially during holidays and special events.
What would you say to young people considering a career in peacekeeping and volunteerism?
My greatest takeaway from serving as a UN Volunteer has learning and growing amidst diversity and being able to work with professionals from across the entire world. I encourage all young people to consider a career in UN Peacekeeping and volunteer to do something for a cause larger than anything: Peace.