29 November 2002
The designation of 2001 as the International Year of Volunteer presented a unique opportunity for countries worldwide to focus on the contributions that volunteers provide towards social and economic development. Jamaica, like many other countries, endorsed the Year and a National IYV Committee was formed with representatives from the government, media, NGO/CBO communities, academia, international organizations and the private sector.
Through the National IYV committee, under the leadership of Custodes Roylan Barrett and Canon Weeville Gordon, several activities, in keeping with the objectives of IYV, were undertaken. Volunteer recognition was one of the key objectives of the year and, in this regard, the Committee introduced an Awards for Excellence for 2001 which recognised outstanding contribution in areas of social and community development, women, youth, HIV/AIDS, the disabled and the elderly. The second area of concentration was the elaboration of a draft policy document: "Towards a National Volunteer Policy for Jamaica" which sets forth the path for volunteerism in Jamaica. The Committee also held two forums: a National Youth Forum and a National Volunteer Leaders Conference. These two activities provided the opportunity for groups and individuals to engage in discussions on the challenges for volunteerism in Jamaica and the measures necessary for the advancement of the sector.
As a direct follow-up to the International Year of Volunteer and as an outcome of the National Volunteer Leaders Conference, a one-day consultation workshop was held on October 29, under the auspices of the Japanese Government. The objectives of the workshop were threefold: to disseminate the October 2001 Conference report; to present a summary report on the work of the National IYV Committee; and to facilitate discussions on concrete steps to strengthen volunteerism in Jamaica.
The Chair, Ms. Beverly Sutherland-Lewis, spoke to the need to attract more volunteers to organized programmes of service and advocated for a central registry of volunteers, which would serve the purpose of matching volunteers with needs. Mrs. Winsome Wilkins of the Council of Voluntary Social Service (CVSS) provided a summary report on the work of the National IYV Committee and highlighted the recognition given to volunteers through the Award of Excellence for outstanding voluntary contribution.
Ms. Shelia Monteith, representing the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, paid tribute to the work carried out by the National IYV committee in its efforts to raise public awareness and to enhance sharing and cooperation among NGOs, government and development agencies. The Deputy Resident Representative of UNDP, Ms. Blanche de Bonneval, congratulated the NGO sector for the professional manner it approached the International Year of Volunteers and commended the IYV committee for its accomplishments during the year.
Following the formal opening of the Consultation Workshop, Ms. Norma Messam, UNV Programme Officer, took the opportunity to alert participants to the upcoming United Nations General Assembly and the plenary sessions in which the Secretary General's report, "International Year of Volunteers: Outcomes and Future Perspectives" as well as the draft resolution, "Towards a National Volunteer Policy for Jamaica", would be discussed. Mrs. Mary Clarke, IYV Committee member, made a presentation of the report following the National Volunteer Leaders Conference where she noted that, while much was achieved during the year, much work is still required in order to create the enabling environment in which volunteerism can be advanced.
Participants agreed with Mrs. Clarke and expressed their concern that a mechanism to quantify the volume of resources available, to track how they are being used or to attract new funds, did not exist. Some participants also felt that there was a need to have data on the economic contribution of volunteerism and that examples should be highlighted regularly through the media and periodic publications. After having explored the feasibility of establishing a national entity for volunteerism in Jamaica, participants overwhelmingly agreed during the plenary sessions that a National Volunteer Centre should be established. Clearly, the lessons from the IYV have been learned and Jamaica is prepared to face new challenges and to build upon the IYV's achievements.
Many thanks to Norma Messam, UNV Programme Officer in Jamaica for making this article possible. Please contact Norma Messam for more information at: firstname.lastname@example.org