International Volunteer Day celebrated
The International Volunteer Day was marked in Samoa with a photo exhibition and a webinar conference at the Sheraton Aggie Grey Hotel and Bungalows on Thursday.
The event was a collaboration between Volunteer Services Abroad, United Nations Volunteers, Peace Corps and Australian Volunteers International with the commemoration revolving around the theme "Together We Can Through Volunteering."
Australian High Commissioner to Samoa, Sara Moriarty, said in her keynote address that the event is one of over 15 events being held by the Australian Volunteers Program and their partners across the region.
She thanked their partners as they celebrated what she described as a very different International Volunteer Day this year with a small number of volunteers present.
“International Volunteer Day is an important day for acknowledging the contribution volunteers make to the organisations and communities they support,” she said.
“The theme for the day is ‘Together We Can Through Volunteering’ with a highlight on COVID-19 and health across the region.”
Ms Moriarty said the Australian government has supported international volunteering for over 60 years and they also fund the Australian Volunteers Program.
“We’re here to celebrate this important day through this photo exhibition, and later, an important webinar event which will discuss the importance of volunteering, but also the challenges of volunteering at such a time of global crisis.
“The Australian Government has been supporting international volunteering now for more than 60 years, and the contribution skilled volunteers make is as important now as it was 60 years ago.
“The Australian Volunteers Program in Samoa is funded by the Australian Government and is an important part of Australia’s aid program.”
According to the Australian diplomat, the Australian Volunteers Program remains committed to support locally-led development.
“For our part, the Australian Volunteers Program remains as committed as ever to our philosophy of supporting locally-led development.
“The goal of the volunteer program is to recruit passionate and skilled volunteers who can work with partner organisations, share their skills and support these local organisations to achieve their development goals.
“This includes volunteers who live and work locally, and more recently, volunteers supporting our partners remotely from Australia.”
Ms Moriarty added that COVID-19 has reshaped the world and is presenting many challenges individually and collectively and impacting communities and across the globe.
“It is more important than ever to take this opportunity to come together as a community and say thank you to our volunteers, our partners and our staff,” she said.
The US Peace Corps Country Coordinator, Gini Wilderson, told the Samoa Observer in an interview that many volunteers were evacuated in April this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and there is now a reduced volunteer population in Samoa.
She said the contributions of volunteers are very important and today they are highlighting the work that volunteers have been able to do in the field.
Mrs. Wilderson further explained that the webinar will have people from all over the world listening in and talking about how the pandemic has changed some of the ways that the volunteers are still able to serve the countries they are able to make an impact in.
She said that the work they do to prepare students for high school entrance exams – which are all conducted in English – is critical work which has been disrupted due to the pandemic and they are currently being creative in terms of how they continue to support, and work together with the communities to prepare for the time when volunteers are able to eventually return to the field.
Peace Corps has been in Samoa for 53 years where they have been teaching English literacy classes for Years 4-6 students as well as helping build school libraries.