Address by His Excellency the Governor-General 25th Anniversary – United Way of Jamaica Wednesday, June 2, 2010 the Hilton Hotel

“Volunteering: It is in giving we receive”

PREAMBLE
Good afternoon.

INTRODUCTION

It has been said that, “No duty is more urgent and spontaneous than that of returning thanks.” This afternoon, we say thanks to, and celebrate the people, organizations and partnerships that have contributed so selflessly to building better communities.

But before we officially recognize the efforts of these stalwarts let us take a moment to reflect on the tragic happenings which occurred last week in Kingston and St Andrew and adjoining areas.   It was yet another defining moment in our nation’s history, and a time that we will not soon forget.  Unfortunately, it was a moment that was marred by conflict, bloodshed, suffering, grief, displacement, and bewilderment.

Many individuals, including children, have lost their lives. I join with the citizens of Jamaica to offer sincere condolence to the relatives of these persons, and pray that they will find comfort, solace and relief at this very difficult time.  I commend the efforts of those who are committed to maintaining peace and good order in Jamaica.

The awards which will be handed out this afternoon are just small tokens of appreciation, which pale in comparison to the magnitude of your generosity. The satisfaction which comes from giving and knowing that someone’s life is better because of your contribution definitely adds new meaning to the expression, “It is in giving we receive.”

The United Way Programme has become synonymous with workplace philanthropy, which is a creative way that allows employed persons an opportunity to support the work of the private sector through payroll deductions.  To date, there are approximately 3,000 United Way non-profit organizations operating in 47 countries.

Here in Jamaica, the Programme has become institutionalized.   I note that since 1985, you have disbursed more than One Billion Dollars to over 4,000 agencies, projects and institutions island wide.

In 2009, donations totaled approximately $80.7 million, which represents a 40% increase in corporate and individual donations over the previous year.   This, therefore, makes your goal of collecting $90 million in 2010 quite achievable.   I am confident that very soon you will achieve your target “to enlist the support of 100,000 employed persons each giving an average of $100 per month.”

VOLUNTEERISM

Volunteerism is inextricably linked to service – service to God through service to our fellow man. This epitomizes the essence of our existence here. The inherent paradox that belies the principle of volunteerism is that services cannot be valued because they are, in fact, INVALUABLE! When you volunteer, the interesting thing is that you give yourself without any regression, without condition, but with full devotion…Volunteerism exemplifies the qualities of love, dedication, unity, trust and service.

Jamaicans are now in a situation where our moral obligation as volunteers is needed. The innate selfish nature of human beings has taken its toll on us to the point where, as a result of nurturing individualistic ambitions, we have fostered a culture whereby individual gain supercedes the well being of other persons. We have forgotten how to be our neighbour’s keeper!

The landmark case that defined what it means to be a neighbour drew reference to the story of the Good Samaritan in the Bible, which told of a man that was robbed, beaten and left for dead on a lonely road. The man was passed by two members of the clergy, who, through the nature of their orientation, were obligated to help the dying man, but for whatever reason, they passed him by.

It was a man who had nothing more than a moral obligation to help another human being, that not only stopped, but went above and beyond the immediate call to administer first aid, paid for lodging and care, and ensured that the injured man was nursed back to health. Imagine how great Jamaica would be if we all exercised our moral obligation like this everyday.

This incident defined for all time:  Who is a neighbour?  It is anyone, anywhere, who needs our help.

In this difficult, heart-breaking time we must begin the painful process of repentance, restoration and healing as we seek to restore the strong moral foundation on which our nation was built. WE CANNOT DESPAIR! WE CANNOT GIVE UP HOPE! 

I believe that the decent, dedicated, hardworking members of our society are in the majority, despite the violence, vulgarity, declining values and economic vicissitudes that confront us. We cannot fall prey to William Shakespeare’s expression which said “Blow winter winds blow, thou art not as cold as man’s unthoughtfulness.”

In my Inaugural Address over a year ago I asserted that: “there is nothing wrong with Jamaica that cannot be fixed by what is right with Jamaica.” Today, as I look around the room I see more than enough reasons to strengthen my resolve to stand whole heartedly behind that assertion.

YOUTH & VOLUNTEERISM

In taking on this transformation, however, we must ensure that we do not neglect the most critical link – our youth, our future. We must engage and involve them in our undertakings. In addition to adding fresh perspective and relevance, they are the key to the continuity of our existence. We need to protect, nurture, socialize and train them to be worthwhile persons and valuable citizens.

Last month, the second year of the I Believe Youth Consultative Breakfasts began with a session in Montego Bay.  The young people had a number of interesting, innovative suggestions and one of them was that community service should be a prerequisite for high school graduation.  This idea was supported by many of the student’s peers. 

Interestingly, on that same day in Canada, the Telegraph-Journal reported that the leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of New Brunswick, David Alward had pledged to make volunteer service a requirement to graduate from high school.  However, Mr Alward’s proposal was not as readily accepted.  Some persons felt that once it is mandatory, it is no longer volunteerism, and could damage the altruistic nature of what is being done.  Others felt it should be called community service as ‘mandatory volunteerism’ is an oxymoron.

Whether the proposal from this Jamaican student is adopted is left to be seen.  However, the important thing is that young people are more and more recognizing their social responsibility and introducing creative ways of integrating volunteerism in their lives. And it is important that we intentionally mentor them accordingly.

Because young people, with their energy, enthusiasm and exuberance want to find places and projects that will allow them to give something back, volunteering will help them to develop creativity, enterprise and social innovation. They will be better able to develop capabilities, share knowledge, make new friends, have fun, and participate in society.

I urge the United Way of Jamaica to, if you have not already done so, develop a policy that will set out the elements for the engagement of young people in volunteering, such as: recognition, support facilities and incentives.  Seek to, as much as possible; work with the schools so that more young people who wish to do so can become involved in an organized way in some of your community projects.

CONCLUSION

“I believe that each of us is placed here by our Creator to enhance the quality of life of those around us.”

As the song says,

If I can help somebody, as I pass along,
If I can cheer somebody, with a word or song,
If I can show somebody, they’re travelling wrong,
If I can do my duty, as a good person ought,
If I can bring back beauty, to a world up wrought,
If I can spread love’s message, as the Master taught,
Then my living shall not be in vain.

I congratulate the award recipients and commend you for the tangible demonstration of your corporate responsibility.   Indeed, you truly are Nation Builders in every sense because your contribution of time and money has helped to make the lives of persons better and thereby help to build our nation.

I thank the United Way of Jamaica team for the    professional approach in encouraging corporate giving and volunteerism.  Your commitment and dedication has helped to transform the circumstances of many persons, and I wish for you much and abundant success in your efforts to make a difference in the lives of many deserving Jamaicans.

It now gives me great pleasure to officially launch “Campaign 2010.”

Thank you.