Volunteer report fills gap

The third State of the World Volunteerism Report, published every three years, was launched in Samoa yesterday.

The only Samoan United Nations volunteer, Josephine To’omata presented the report, bound in Fijian tapa cloth to acting Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mata’afa before dozens of volunteers from across Samoa.

Presenting key findings, United Nations Volunteers (U.N.V.) Asia-Pacific regional manager Shalina Miah said for this report, the researchers need to fill a data gap as at least 70 per cent of volunteering is informal. Despite that, data on demographics, motivations and reception to volunteering was gathered and compiled in this year’s report, titled “the thread that binds.”

“Now we have a combination of information we have gathered and from there we can continue working,” she said.

Globally, volunteers account for 109 million full-time equivalent workers: that’s all volunteer hours big and small put together. The report suggests that’s enough to populate a country fifth largest in the world.

Here in the Pacific (and Asia), 61.8 per cent are engaged in informal volunteering, and are fairly evenly split between men and women – 50.8 and 49.2 per cent respectively. Fa’afafine and fata’ama were not noted.

Using the evidence and data on volunteerism, Ms Miah said the U.N. can more effectively meet the needs of both host governments and volunteers to work towards everyone’s goals.

 “We work with governments to make sure the volunteer infrastructures, the policies, legislations, are in place in countries to give those necessary conditions for volunteers to work in a fair manner.”

In Samoa, like many other countries, international volunteers are brought to fill skills gaps, and to transfer those skills to ensure sustainable change. Ms Miah believes that ideal is working in practice.

“What we see in the Asia Pacific is that the national capacity in every country is really there." 

“Our figures are showing that our numbers of national volunteers are growing over time. That is a testimony of the availability of national capacity,” she said.

Skills can be transferred in a variety of ways, but working for an international organisation alongside other volunteers is a good learning tool.

“They get exposure to multi-cultural teams, to work with colleagues from different walks of life. That in itself is a learning tool for them. 

“We could also have a situation where an international volunteer is paired with a national volunteer where you really ensure there is a transfer of skills,” Ms Miah said.

As well as presenting the report, Ms Miah and her colleague Oliver Adam (executive director U.N.V) met with the prime minister, deputy prime minister and minister for women, community and social development to discuss how government can best support volunteerism in Samoa.

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