03 December 2004
Fiji held its first volunteer award to celebrate International Volunteer Day, 3 December in the capital Suva.
Anand Loshini Pillay, a volunteer for 20 years, was named Outstanding Volunteer of the Year. Twenty-year old Helen Bachu, a Red Cross volunteer won the Youth Category, while the NGO Volunteer award went to Megalife Ministries, a faith-based organization recognized for raising awareness on issues such as health and education to communities.
The “Spirit of the Fiji Islands Volunteering Champion” Awards was initiated by the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme to promote volunteering and recognize exemplary volunteer work.
“Each volunteer is a builder,” says the country’s Prime Minister in his speech during the ceremony,
“Every act of service, every project for the welfare of the community is a building block.”
Earlier that day, more than 15 volunteer-involving organizations participated in a march in the capital to advocate volunteering. This was followed by a speech of Ratu Peni Volavola, the Lord Mayor of Suva, praising the commitment of volunteers and expressed appreciation to the work they have done.
“Today is probably the only day that volunteers actually get the opportunity to be on the spotlight,” he says. “Volunteering has contributed to “freedom from want and fear, it has mitigated the impact of poverty and natural and man-made disasters.”
The mayor also urged government to support volunteering efforts in the country by developing a strategic volunteering programme for the country, i.e. establishing a coordinating unit to work on policies and networking, allocate budget and create more volunteering opportunities.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, a.i., Hans de Graaff addressed the volunteers on the importance of volunteerism in achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
He added that volunteerism and volunteer action are considered as strategic resource in meeting the targets. He acknowledged that IVD provides opportunity for government, civil society organizations, volunteer-involving agencies and the private sector to work together to attain common goals.
IVD in Fiji was organized by representatives from various volunteer-involving organizations namely the Australian Youth Ambassadors, the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, Peace Corps, the Korean International Cooperation Agency, Fiji Red Cross Society, Green Peace, among others. And government agencies such as Ministries of Health, Youth and Employment Opportunities.
From: UN Volunteers Fiji