Published on 5th December 2013
VSA volunteers will be celebrating today, as part of International Volunteer Day (IVD) events in the Pacific. IVD was established by the UN in 1985 to recognise the contributions volunteers make internationally, and is marked every year on December 5.
VSA Volunteers in Samoa and Timor-Leste will be involved in events planned by United Nations Volunteers (UNV). In Timor-Leste celebrations will take place in the capital Dili, outside the Palacio de Governo, with speeches and activities for children, to recognise this year’s focus on youth volunteerism.
In Samoa, the New Zealand High Commission is holding a reception at the High Commissioner’s residence for all VSA volunteers and their partners. And on Saturday December 9, UNV will hold a morning march of volunteers in Apia, with a keynote speech by Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoliai Sailele Malielegaoi.
Our Bougainville volunteers will spend the day with their feet up at Chabai, snorkelling and enjoying a mumu thanks to Sister Lorraine and VSA volunteer Liz Hicks from the Nazareth Rehabilitation Programme.
This year, while all volunteers are recognised, there is a special emphasis on youth volunteers and the unique qualities they bring to work in the development field. VSA’s UniVols have responded to a survey nominating their top six development priorities as part of the UN’s My World 2015 survey (myworld2015.org), and spoken about what they feel they bring to, and get out of, volunteering.
“Young people might not have a specific skill to pass on, but they have flexibility of skill sets”, says Sarah Gwynn, 23, a UniVol at the Samoa International Cricket Association. “Most developing countries have a young population”, she adds, “and UniVols are able to identify more with these young people.”
Indeed, more than 50 per cent of the population in the Pacific is under the age of 24.
Max Honey, a 22 year old UniVol at the Northern Care Clinic in Vanuatu, says “I think my age makes me more approachable. Being of similar ages automatically breaks down one barrier and makes other potential cultural barriers easier to bridge.”
Youth volunteers compensate for a lack of life experience and skill with “high levels of enthusiasm and energy”, Paul Bedggood adds. The 26 year old UniVol at the Bouganville Healthy Communities Programme in Arawa says this naturally leads to greater community involvement, through sport, community groups and social engagements.
Honey concludes: “The faith VSA puts behind their young volunteers by sending them on assignments where they have a chance to implement their own ideas in their own ways is personally very empowering.”