The New Zealand High Commissioner’s residence at Letava was the venue of a very special occasion last week Friday.
The event was the celebration of International Volunteer Day.
The International Volunteer Day not only celebrates volunteerism in all it facets but it was also an opportunity to celebrate the many millions of people around the world who give their time and skills for free at home and overseas.
High Commissioner, Jackie Frizelle who is also a former volunteer spoke about the significant role of volunteers. She also spoke about how the New Zealand’s Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) has grown over the years, and strengthen the connections between New Zealand and Samoa.
New Zealand’s Volunteer Service Abroad (VSA) has been sending Kiwi volunteers to Samoa since 1963 – longer than any other country in which VSA works.
While the first volunteers 53 years ago were most likely to be teachers, today VSA sends volunteers focusing on promoting economic development and building local capacity in the agricultural, small business and tourism sectors, supported by the New Zealand Aid Programme and other partnerships.
Volunteers have created indelible ties between the two countries, as hundreds of former volunteers to Samoa have found themselves with a new “family” with whom they’ve kept in touch with for decades.
She has also been impressed with the practical and flexible ways in which volunteers and their partner organisations have worked together to achieve some great results.
“VSAs programme has strengthened connections between New Zealand and Samoa. As volunteers often work at the grassroots they really do develop deep mutual understanding. I know it isn’t always easy to make it work, but the rewards are enormous”.
VSA CEO Dr Gill Greer says that while International Volunteer Day is a chance to recognise the work that volunteers do, it is also a chance to reflect on the connections they make and to recognise that while volunteers contribute generously to communities, it is not a one-way relationship.
“Volunteers often say to me, ‘I gained more than I gave,’ when they return from assignments, and that is why we are celebrating International Volunteer Day In New Zealand by recognising the transformations that happen when people work together in equal partnership towards a common goal.”
Over the previous year, VSA volunteers have undertaken 192 assignments across the Pacific, spending a cumulative 1,457 months in the field – the equivalent to 121 years’ work. Right now, volunteers are working in Samoa with organisations like the Samoa Victim Support Group, LotoTaumafai Society for People with Disabilities, the Lalomalava Village Development trust, Women in Business Development Inc., and the Samoa Association of Sport and National Olympic Committee.