By Fathima Riznaz Hafi
Pix by Indraratne Balasuriya
Continuing to inspire Sri Lankans to volunteer for social causes, the fourth edition of V-Awards was launched recently. A joint venture by the Ministry of Social Welfare and Primary Industries, United Nations Volunteers, and News 1st/MTV, and supported by the National Steering Committee on Volunteering, V-Awards is a novel concept in Sri Lanka that was first launched in 2011 and then held again in 2013 and 2015, with the aim of acknowledging and celebrating volunteers who selflessly and silently help others, expecting nothing in return.
Speaking at the launch and fellowship event, Minister of Social Welfare and Primary Industries Daya Gamage said: “Jobs that are done by volunteers range from highly sophisticated to ordinary activities. They are working in areas such as education, health, water and sanitation, improving living conditions, helping elderly people, protecting habitats and rehabilitating drug addicts and alcoholics. For many of these jobs, if done without volunteers, someone would have to pay to achieve the same gain. Some jobs, of course, would simply not get done without volunteers. This is why it is impossible to put a price on volunteers – they add something which is priceless.”
The United Nations Volunteers are global advocates reaffirming the significance of volunteerism in the development agenda today. “In Sri Lanka, over 56% of the population engage in volunteer work, contributing significantly to the development of this Nation,” said UNDP Country Director Mohammad Younes.
Addressing the volunteers present at the event he said: “We know that you chose to volunteer selflessly and without expectation of being recognised or rewarded. However, the UN Volunteers wanted to recognise and appreciate your contribution as we believe it is important for you to know that what you do makes a difference.”
“With this in mind, in 2011, UN Volunteers embarked on an ambitious journey to identify and reward volunteers making selfless contributions to the development of Sri Lanka. During this journey of seven years, we have three successful editions and today, we are launching the fourth edition,” he added. Noting that the V-Awards brand has gone global and has been replicated in other countries, including India, Younes commended the flagship initiative, stating that it showcases the power of volunteerism.
“Volunteerism is the thread that binds any community together. During any catastrophe or crisis, it is volunteers who are most active and often first to act. They show the way and others follow. We can see that volunteerism is a universal value – it is common across cultures and societies,” noted United Nations Resident Coordinator Terrence D. Jones.
Extraordinary people are amongst us but are not known or appreciated as they work silently, not expecting anything in return. Nominations for V-Awards 2018 are now open, and if you know extraordinary people who go out of their way to help people in need, send in the nomination forms to V-Awards Secretariat, UN Volunteers 202-204, Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7 before 20 August. Forms are also available at www.vawards.lk.