Tag Archives: volunteerism

Time is Precious…

A letter from Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader… 

vctt

Hard at work for others – Kevin Ousman, VCTT Volunteer Impact Leader and 2017 Volunteer of the Year

Time is precious. It sounds cliché but there is one fundamental thing I’ve learnt while volunteering. Time spent doing something for a cause that you believe in, for no expected reward or gain, just…..feels more precious. Let me expound a little more on what I mean.  At present I don’t have too many long term goals and that can be an extremely unsettling feeling. Of course I know I want to live comfortably and have a family one day, but charting the actual way forward is often challenging. Chasing my original dream of travelling the world and experiencing cultures is a nice ideal but often feels significantly out of reach.  Outside of my professional life, I try to keep active and have my fair share of hobbies; but, where I’m truly at peace is when I can see myself interacting with people and making a positive contribution to someone. Whether that entails assisting an NGO with a specific project or directly aiding someone in distress, I truly love volunteering and wish I did it more often. In fact, sometimes I wish I could do it full time.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that every time you volunteer you will feel as if you are making a difference. I’m also not saying that you have to volunteer purely out of selflessness. Volunteering can open avenues for a wide variety of meaningful experiences and connections for furthering one’s development (social/professional/health, etc.) and forming relationships with fellow volunteers. Feeling a rush of satisfaction and happiness is a reward in itself. Of course, working with people of different personalities and organizations with different structures can be challenging, especially when you’re dealing with someone else’s passion project. Participating in some projects may seem like you aren’t really making a difference or doing much at all, when in actuality, your service means the world to that organization/person to which you are dedicating your time. So, make sure that when you do decide to volunteer, you choose something that you are passionate about or which falls under your scope of interest (or not – stepping out of your comfort zone can sometimes work wonders). That way, if things don’t go according to plan or you feel a bit jaded, you can refocus on the general goal, or even turn your sights onto other opportunities.

At times when people contact me to volunteer with VCTT they express to me that ‘they don’t have any experience’. There will always be a bit of apprehension as to whether you are suited for the particular assignment, and after volunteering for quite a number of years, I still feel the same apprehension sometimes. However, at VCTT we believe that there is a volunteer in everyone. We may not see the things we do as ‘volunteering’ but, if you operate under my personal definition (that anything you do for someone, without expecting anything in return, which utilizes your own resources, is volunteering), then we have all been or are volunteers in some capacity.

The Volunteer Center of Trinidad and Tobago (VCTT) operates under the mission of connecting people, fueling hope and collaborating for change.  We provide a service which makes volunteering an enjoyable and engaging experience for both our partner organizations and most importantly, our volunteers. 

Our focus has been on intimately supporting partner projects that are in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals; we believe that volunteerism is a key cornerstone of sustainable societies and in bridging societal gaps that can divide us as a people.  In addition to our work linking volunteers to partner NGOs/CBOs, we also have numerous projects of our own all geared towards the upliftment of the spirit of volunteering within Trinidad and Tobago as well as the wider Caribbean.

VCTT aims to ignite the spirit of volunteering in every home.

We believe that volunteering is inherent in humanity and maybe we can help persons realize that in the work we do. It is likely that most homes already have volunteers who simply don’t associate their good deeds with the term. We Trinbagonians saw that recently after the flooding events! And that gives me a warm feeling of hope and assurance that as a global people, we can take care of one another and try to enable each other’s positive ideals for the betterment of a global community.

Maybe volunteering still seems a daunting prospect for a variety of reasons. Everyone has their own challenges and situations and may not be able to give of their time as much as they’d truly like to and that’s okay. I do warmly encourage you to register on our web platform www.vctt.org (and kindly spread the word for others to do so) so that you can be notified of our current and upcoming projects, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll see something that grabs your attention. If you belong to an NGO/CBO and believe that you support a cause that can effect positive change, and require volunteers, register with us also!

Warm Regards,

Kevin

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SPOTLIGHT on Youth Participation through Volunteerism

Onyka Barrett – a partner in youth development and contributor to 50/50 Youth –  shares a perspective in the following SPOTLIGHT on the nexus between volunteerism and youth participation. Onyka Barrett is  the Regional Advisor/Programme Manager for National Volunteering (Caribbean) at Cuso International

Volunteerism: A vehicle for Mobilizing Youth Participation

Social integration, poverty alleviation and employment are at the heart of people’s participation in their societies (UNV 2011). As such a key dimension of poverty is a lack of voice and participation.

In the Caribbean, the voices of young women and men, especially those living in poverty, are often excluded from their society’s development agenda and this exclusion serves to foster a cycle of poverty, disenfranchising their ability to make positive decisions for themselves, families & communities.

The process of inclusion is especially important for youth to help them experience the sense of belonging and responsibility to become productive citizens and active participants in their society. Moreover, it influences young people’s perception of their ability to achieve their dreams and aspirations. Research conducted by CIVICUS, IAVE and UNV concludes that volunteerism is an important strategy for fostering people’s participation in social change and shaping development[1].

The fourth action point of the Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (PAYE) speaks to “Promoting the participation of young people in decision-making”. Volunteerism has been identified as a critical tool to support youth involvement in Decision Making.

Cuso International is an international development organization that works to reduce poverty and inequality through the efforts of skilled volunteers. As practitioners in the field of development through volunteerism, we believe that volunteers can share expertise and perspectives, and help to unlock potential wherever they are. For over fifty (50) years, Cuso International volunteers have worked with local partner organisations in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, creating lasting impact on projects within the following sectors: Health, Education, Participation & Governance, Secure Livelihoods & Natural Resource Management, Gender & Climate Change.

At a time in the Caribbean region when young men and women are disproportionately affected by poverty, inequality, unemployment and crime, we see volunteerism as an effective vehicle for allowing these young persons to also input to the decision-making processes, policies and practices that influence these social conditions. As an organisation we see our role as one to strengthen the capacity of relevant institutions to ensure they are better able to create a space for continued input of the youth voice, through the fulfilment of their organisational mandates.

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The RISE Youth group delivers a dramatic presentation on the importance of volunteerism during Cuso International’s Caribbean Regional Symposium on National Volunteerism held on 25th October, 2013, held in Kingston, Jamaica.

Volunteerism is also a valuable tool for increasing employability skills, improving livelihoods and demonstrating active citizenship.

As such, alongside our international volunteering programme, we work with local partners to help them create or co-ordinate their own volunteering programmes. In this way, we have contributed to creating opportunities for young Jamaicans and Guyanese to engage in volunteerism as a way to own the process of development and influence decision-making processes. Over the past 50 years we have built an approach to improving participation & governance through volunteerism. This includes:

  • Working in partnership – We do not recruit local volunteers, but rather use our expertise to help our partner organisations create and run their own volunteering programmes.
  • Promoting active citizenship, learning, innovation and networking through volunteerism.
  • Advocating for enabling policy and legal environments conducive to the growth of in-country volunteering initiatives.
  • Engaging in reflective learning and knowledge sharing processes.
  • Working with the private sector –  increasing knowledge and awareness of the mechanisms for and value of supporting volunteering as an effective and sustainable tool to fight poverty and disadvantage
  • Promoting effective gender equality programming

As a part of Cuso’s strategy for youth empowerment across the region, we will expand our efforts for the empowerment of youth socially and economically to include five countries – Grenada, Dominica, Jamaica, Guyana and Belize. Apart from youth Participation, voice & volunteerism, we will also focus on Access to Justice and Entrepreneurship/Employment.

We envision a Caribbean region in which all young women and men, particularly the most marginalized and disadvantaged are active and responsible citizens within their societies and are valued as partners in the development process. We see volunteerism as a very effective tool for achieving this.

For more information on CUSO International initiatives, please contact:

Ms. Onyka Barrett – Regional Advisor/ Programme Manager, Cuso International in the Caribbean

onyka.barrett@cuso-lac.org; 1-876-929-8774


[1] CIVICUS, IAVE, UNV: Volunteering & Social Activitsm: Pathways for participation in human development, World Alliance for Citizen Participation, the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) and United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, 2007/8.