08 December 2004
by Amelia Makutu
When asked how just many years he has spent volunteering, Hari Raj Naicker modestly shrugged his shoulders.
"For a while now," he quietly answered.
He plays its down quite well when, in fact, at 62 Mr Naicker has spent the past 46 years volunteering for various causes.
And worthy causes they are, such as the Labasa and Ba Fire Brigade, and the Hurricane Bebe relief work to name one or two.
But most of his volunteering has been with the Saint John Ambulance Brigade where he rose from being a cadet to assistant commissioner.
Wait. To top that up, and in all that time, Mr Naicker has been actively involved in soccer from district level, national level through to international level where he is a FIFA accredited referee.
Mr Naicker taught for 37 years, first as a primary school teacher before attaining a degree and teaching at secondary level.
He retired in 1999 as the principal of Suva Sangam High School.
"A rewarding aspect of teaching is knowing that the students I taught have done well for themselves," he said of his career.
For someone his age, Mr Naicker is as sharp as tack and does not forget names and places, and chuckled as he told of the days when he and Viliame Saulekaleka Tunidau were teaching in rural Ba schools and would run nine miles of dirt road to Ba town to pick up mail.
Mr Naicker is one of the many volunteers in Fiji who have over the years shared their time, resources and skills for the benefit of others without any expectation of financial gain. And the work they have done has created positive impact and results in the many societies in which they have worked.
It is said that a pessimist sees a glass of water as half empty but an optimist sees the same glass as half full.
However a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty to drink.
Volunteers are that "giving person".
And for that effort, the volunteer does not expect reward but does it because they care.
All around the world including Fiji, volunteers are doing great work and making many positive changes with little recognition.
Their reward lies within their hearts and minds, and in seeing their contributions make people and their environment happier, safer and believing in the spirit of humanity.
So it is a little wonder that International Volunteers Day, traditionally on December 5, but celebrated today, will come and go, but the people for whom the day is intended will carry on and continue to make a difference to many.
International Volunteer Day (IVD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1985 and has since been celebrated by volunteers, government, civil society organisations and the United Nations.
The day provides a chance for volunteers and groups that involve volunteers to work together on projects and campaigns and get more people to join them in their contributions to economic and social development at local, national and international level.
Fiji celebrations for International Volunteers Day will be marked today with a march through Suva by various volunteering organisations and individuals.
And in true volunteer spirit, some of those volunteers taking part will be cleaning up and gardening at selected centres in the Suva and greater Suva area.
These volunteers consider the day and its activities as part and parcel of their everyday lives, so they celebrate the only day by "doing good unto others".
Other volunteering bodies have organised weeklong activities.
In those countries where volunteering has been studied, its contribution is estimated at 8 to 10 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
Contrary to popular belief, volunteering is an activity that does not take age, race or creed into consideration and can be classified as service to others, self-help, participation and advocacy or campaigning.
And one does not have to go far to volunteer. It can be in the neighbourhood or community.
As Mr Naicker so aptly put it, ageing does not stop someone from volunteering. If anything, it provides new opportunities to continue volunteering.
Soccer and his teaching career aside, Mr Naicker is perhaps better known for his work with the St John Ambulance where he is the outgoing executive director.
Does that mark the end of his volunteering? "No," he said with a laugh. "Now as a senior citizen, I am looking at ways where we can mobilise support services for other senior citizens."
Mr Naicker is one of the few volunteers willing to speak candidly about volunteering. Other individual volunteers and volunteering organisations prefer to stay in the background ... that is just how it is for volunteers.