Message of the Honourable Minister of Social Transformation of Barbados, Mr. Hamilton Lashley, given at the Regional Church Service on 3 December 2000 for the International Year of Volunteers

Today we come to give GOD praise for the good in this world, the good of being lour brother's keeper. This concept is embodied in the precept of Volun1teerism, which goes black as far as one can remember. Societies were built on people contributing time and energy; in fact the Church itself was one of the leading institutions that promoted concepts of volunteerism. Christ, the foundation of Christianity and the Church, promoted, being our brother's keeper, his eventual sacrifice on the cross was so that man may live. So that this concept of giving, of sacrifice, is founded in the life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And so, mankind through the ages have assisted each others families, assisted communities which laid the foundation for what we know today as concepts of social development and social building. Generations have passed and today we face a greater challenge as the world changes. People have changed, precepts have changed, concepts have changed, we have become societies divided against each other, we have become selfish and uncaring. This new breed of social evolution has created monsters of the lot of us.

Today, mankind is consumed with the material gain of owning a car, building a concrete empire, because the principles that guided our behaviour have been eroded and neglected. Not that we should not strive to be comfortable in life, but how much of us after we have achieved our material gain, looks back to help our brother along the way. It seems that the more we get, the more we want.

Look around you when you leave here today, drive through the city which is a stone’s throw away , let you heart open, take yourself through the alleys, of this nation, that hold and shadow the deep pockets of poverty that remain in our midst, then take a drive around the mansions and high risings that are going up in our Nation of prosperity every day I say to let your hearts be troubled, for every day the eyes of the down pressed will open wider to take in these mammoth concrete jungles, and sooner or later they will realize that they have been left behind and no one seems to care.

Ladies and gentlemen this is the recipe for social decay, in our society. Today, giving special focus to the issue or need to establish Volunteerism as a process of our development, is a cause worth echoing. And so I commend those valiant individuals and organizations that are already out there in the field, in the hills and valleys, giving of their time and energy to lift up someone out of the depths of social decadence. We need to re-build a nation that cares about each other; the challenge is great.

As we speak to this issue, let us remember our Caribbean brothers and sisters who are also caught in the struggle to combat the ills of today's society. Poverty and social exclusion, HIV / AIDS are but two of the greater challenges which we, as a region must battle with our limited resources and fragile social and economic infrastructures. Think about, this thing for while poverty and social exclusion, HIV/AIDS. We can pump as much money as we like into eradicating these ills, but will it do the job. What are the single most factors that are required to kill this beast? Is it not how we care for each other?

Money will not stop the spread of AIDS nor will it solve poverty, but unless we change our selfish, uncaring and reckless behaviors will we see the end to these social ills. Think about it for a while, let it sink in; ask your-self, have you been caring enough to your own-self, have you been caring for the temple that God loan to you; your children, have you given enough care to these special gifts of life; your neighbor, have you been kind to your neighbour, have you been loving your neighbour as yourself. These are principles that meet with God's approval as the supreme volunteer. Ask yourself do you just go after your social policy or any other degree to get a bigger salary, a better job, or so that you can uplift the lives of people - ask yourselves these questions. Let us begin the search for true volunteer efforts right here, righ1; now, by searching our heart of hearts. Too much of us gain an education, and, make no real significant contribution to the social or economic enhancement of mankind. What are we being educated for, to brag about how bright we are, to block the less fortunate from obtaining services that they require and need.

I know a lot of people who know well how not to get things done as opposed to how they can get the, job done. We have become creatures and servants to a system rather serve the principles of Christ and serve our brothers and sisters. I know of workers who would bend over backwards to uphold a system rather than assist a human being, and then brag that they have done their job well. We pay attention to our mental and physical needs, what of the spiritual. We have allowed our selves to become robots, not caring, without compassion, without emotion, creatures of the system. Today, the concept of volunteerism has taken on a different twist; we now have paid volunteers, since people are no longer inclined to give for free. Nevertheless, I implore you to at least volunteer for free to teach your children the good principles, of life, volunteer to teach them humanity, volunteer to teach them good manners, basic humane concepts, this is where the breakdown of our societies start. Congratulate the UNDP and its affiliate organizations, the Barbados Chapter of Volunteers for spearheading this effort to give focus and attention to the issues at hand.

We need to build a framework to house this process and to articulate a workable mechanism against the growing trend of global social, cultural and economic changes. Our region is set to face its greatest challenge yet, if ever we needed a sense of regionalism, of one people, one voice, one destiny we need it now. Our common strengths are required to build a stronghold against the cultural erosion that changes our beliefs systems, and hence challenges our will to survive. I am told that National Committees for International Year of Volunteers have been or are in the process of being established in 84 countries around the world. In tl1e Caribbean and the Americas, National Committees have been formed in Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guyana, Surinam, Costa Rica, Guatemala and here and Barbados.

Some activities that have been planned include the establishment of a regional database on volunteers in reference to their country, skills and availability. Regional primary and secondary schools competition will be planned, the establishment of a Regional Volunteer Awards and benefit scheme, and the launch of a Caribbean Volunteer Foundation inclusive of non-English speaking territories are all on the agenda.

I offer my support to the process and wish that they meet only success in their endeavors. As we leave this place of worship let us all make a commitment to love again, to care to be compassionate. Let us put aside jealousy, envy, hypocrisy and greed. Let us add to this process by giving our time and efforts to build a better nation, a better world. Let our commitment to change be our contribution to the efforts of framing process of volunteerism, at home and abroad.

Ladies and gentlemen, indeed, let no obstacle be greater than the cause. I thank you.