Transforming the Caribbean region through volunteerism

Guest post today from fellow Cuso colleagues Rhonda Belous and Onyka Barrett. They compiled this report on a recent volunteer symposium that aims to better link the private sector, the voluntary sector and government to enhance volunteerism in Jamaica. Enjoy!

Transforming the Caribbean region through volunteerism

Kingston, Jamaica, October 22nd-25th, 2013 – Cuso International in Jamaica joined forces with the Council for Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) and the Jamaica National Building Society Foundation – the Corporate Social Responsibility arm of the Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) – to host the Caribbean Regional Volunteerism Symposium 2013.

This collaboration allowed for the gathering of a variety of CBOs, NGOs, Government Agencies & International organisations and generated a treasured collection of shared knowledge, expertise, and country-specific initiatives that will contribute to raising the profile on the value of volunteerism within the Caribbean region.

This was all part of a Caribbean Regional Study Tour on National Volunteerism organized by Cuso International in Jamaica. The Study Tour featured visits to Partner agencies projects, a Workshop focused on tools for creating an enabling environment for volunteerism and a Regional Symposium focused on the value, impact & potential for volunteerism to foster development.

Regional participants included representatives of UNDP, Barbados & the OECS, Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport, Guyana, Volunteer Centre of Trinidad & Tobago and Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sport, Dominica.

The 2013 Caribbean Regional Volunteerism Symposium, “Transformation through Volunteerism” was held on October 25th, opened with a prayer from Mrs. Georgia Lewis Scott, Executive Director of Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU), as she made a plea for Jamaica to “be the thriving country it aspires to be.”

“This is your day,” said Mr. Tarik Perkins, Country Representative, Cuso International as he welcomed all guests and in particular all national and international volunteers.

Onyka Barrett, Cuso International’s Caribbean Regional Advisor/ Programme Manager for National Volunteering shared her personal vision: “how to package, brand and move the agenda of national volunteerism forward,” and continued by saying, “this is one step in a process; there is a need for continuous improvement and engagement.”

“We must influence policy makers, and create effective national volunteer programs; we cannot do it on our own,” said Winsome Wilkins, CEO of Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS).

Mr. Earl Jarrett, General Manager, Jamaica National Building Society, delivered the keynote address. He emphasized the need to “identify greater partnerships between the state, our voluntary community and the private sector” as we seek to create a difference in our communities.” He said that volunteerism can encompass a broad range of involvement and support, including effective vehicles for poverty reduction, and we must also encourage and value volunteers who monitor and drive policy change, such as tax reform and keeping our pulse on IMF initiatives. “Without volunteers conducting all of these types of activities, the economy would collapse,” he continued.

Ms. Saffrey Brown, General Manager of the JN Foundation, used the opportunity to showcase the organisation’s volunteer core – Act!on Jamaica volunteers – as well as highlight other CSR initiatives that champion volunteerism.

The symposium was rounded out with interactive panel discussions, moderated by Mrs. Georgia Lewis Scott on topics such as “Creating an Enabling Environment for Volunteerism – Successes and Challenges, Opportunities & Best Practices” and “Making Volunteerism Matter to the Individual.”

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