Fiji Islands launch IYV with 'helping hands'
05 December 2000

IYV began in Fiji with the launching of a "helping hands" banner on 2 December by Paula Sotutu.

The 20-by-20-metre banner will be taken around Fiji for volunteers to place their handprints. The banner is covered by individual handprints from volunteers working in Fiji. It demonstrates in a visible and colourful way the positive and diverse contributions that volunteers make, and have made, through community service in the Fiji Islands. The mistress of ceremonies of this launch --Ms Sharon Rolls -- stated that "IYV 2001 is not just about international volunteers, it has a very local flavour within Fiji's theme "helping hands -- it is about realizing our local, national and international commitments within our community.

"UNV published and circulated a volunteer week calendar of events of the Fiji IYV working group members. This calendar was placed by UNV in the Fiji Times and Fiji Post, two national newspapers. Volunteer week covered a range of activities, including the tree planting programme at the Natadola Beach by OISCA which commenced on Monday, 4 December, first aid demonstrations by St. Johns Ambulance at different centres around Suva, and an NGO Summit on volunteerism organized by FCOSS on 5 December. UNV also produced a year planner on IYV themes for distribution to regional governments and NGOs and UN agency staff. An IYV street banner was also produced and hoisted for the week's activities.

The UNV Unit, (assisted by UNV microfinance specialist Manuel Palis), conducted a slide presentation on 6 December on IYV and the UNV Programme in Fiji and the Pacific. Present at this session was the UNDP Resident Representative, Mr Romulo Garcia, other UNDP staff and UN agency representatives. They were encouraged to promote UNV placements in their programmes and country responsibilities as well as to continue with their volunteer contributions through community organizations.

On 7 December, the UNV Unit conducted a similar session for the public, entitled UNV: Experiences and Opportunities in the Pacific. Many participants were public servants or NGO staff members and volunteers who were interested in how they could join UNV.

The IYV activities in Fiji were widely publicized through the national print media. Some of the headlines read, "UN recognizes worldwide efforts of volunteers" and "Dedicated volunteers fighting cancer". The national Fiji Sun newspaper ran a two-page supplement with information on IYV and activities of other NGOs such as the Fiji Council of Social Services (FCOSS) and Fiji Cancer Society. FCOSS publicized their project to commemorate IYV 2001 where it invited families, schools, town councils, government agencies and corporate bodies to plant fruit trees on 1 January 2001.

A diverse and large number of men, women, boys and girls made it to the volunteer expo on 8 December to end the week of IYV activities organized by the IYV National Committee. FCOSS and volunteer organizations showcased their work and provided information and free services to the public. St Johns Ambulance offered blood pressure tests. The Downtown Boulevard "the one and only mall in Fiji was crowded with people to witness and realise the contributions of volunteers towards a better society. Both international agencies like UNV, JOCV and local volunteer organisations including FCOSS, Fiji Cancer Society, and OISCA displayed information, and provided entertainment on the day. It was also a day of celebration by volunteers considering the colourful posters and decorations with the IYV balloons that decorated the booths. Korean volunteers wore colourful traditional costumes to bring an added bonus to the celebrations. Many members of the public showed interest in becoming a volunteer and FCOSS and St Johns Ambulance had registration forms available.

From: UN Volunteers, Germany

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