JIS News

Story Highlights

  • The Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) is imploring more Jamaicans to volunteer their time in activities to uplift the nation, as it seeks to do its part to give Jamaica a 'Fresh Start'.
  • The National Transformation Programme (NTP), under the Fresh Start Jamaica programme, is trumpeting volunteerism as one of the ways to build national pride and help to transform Jamaica, and the CVSS is working assiduously to push this volunteerism aspect of the transformation process.
  • Established in 1940, the CVSS is today the oldest and largest umbrella organisation in the English-speaking Caribbean, with most civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as members. Its main aims are to build the capacity of members and the wider community and create sustainable alliances, facilitate mutual support and joint action and represent the concerns of the social sector. It also helps to attract resources to its members and offers training for volunteers. The CVSS is funded through membership dues, fees from projects, a subvention from the Government, and through fund-raising activities.

The Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) is imploring more Jamaicans to volunteer their time in activities to uplift the nation, as it seeks to do its part to give Jamaica a ‘Fresh Start’.

The National Transformation Programme (NTP), under the Fresh Start Jamaica programme, is trumpeting volunteerism as one of the ways to build national pride and help to transform Jamaica, and the CVSS is working assiduously to push this volunteerism aspect of the transformation process.

Established in 1940, the CVSS is today the oldest and largest umbrella organisation in the English-speaking Caribbean, with most civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) as members. Its main aims are to build the capacity of members and the wider community and create sustainable alliances, facilitate mutual support and joint action and represent the concerns of the social sector. It also helps to attract resources to its members and offers training for volunteers. The CVSS is funded through membership dues, fees from projects, a subvention from the Government, and through fund-raising activities.

Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the CVSS, Mrs. Winsome Wilkins, says the CVSS is very happy to be a partner of the NTP, especially given the co-ordinating role it has been playing for service organisations. “You could see why this was not difficult to decide on, because our members are at the community level, they are all across the island. Some of the programmes that they are offering are in keeping with the National Transformation Programme,” she explains.

“Because we are national, if there is a message to go out, then the CVSS, through its members, can get that programme out,” Mrs. Wilkins tells JIS News.

National Director of the NTP, Reverend Al Miller, has proposed a national identification card for all Jamaicans, identifying them as a worker, student or volunteer. According to him, no one in Jamaica should be idle, and volunteerism is one of the areas to which unattached persons can be encouraged to join.

Mrs. Wilkins is also championing this idea. She believes everyone can volunteer and is reminding Jamaicans that they can volunteer in several different ways, whether it is giving of their time, talent or resources.

“Children can volunteer to read to older people and they don’t have to go far to volunteer, because in every community there are senior citizens and they can go and avail themselves to read for them,” she says.

Going even further to prove that age is not a deterrent to becoming a volunteer, Mrs. Wilkins says senior citizens have a wealth of knowledge and experience and can volunteer to share cultural experiences with youth groups or parenting skills with young mothers.

“No task is too menial, what you are doing, see it as a contribution to the building of your country,” she encourages.

Mrs. Wilkins says the CVSS is fully committed to national transformation and she is convinced that volunteerism is one of the most effective vehicles through which a country can achieve development.

She says that amidst the current economic crunch, even unemployed Jamaicans should still attempt to volunteer their time and talents. “When you go and volunteer, sometimes you never know; opportunities might just jump at you. You go and you align yourself with a voluntary organisation and opportunity comes,” she explains.

As part of its mandate to co-ordinate the efforts of service organisations and volunteers, the CVSS established the National Volunteer Centre in 2007 at 2D Camp Road in Kingston. The centre carries out training progammes relating to the efficient management of NGOs, volunteerism and other subjects required by the sector. For example, there are seminars on proposal writing for organisations seeking funding for a project, as well as on project management, advocacy and networking, strategic planning, fund-raising and volunteerism.

The centre, which Mrs. Wilkins describes as the “hub for voluntary activities” in Jamaica, is also where Jamaicans can go to register to become volunteers.

“If you want to be a volunteer, you can either go online and register directly online or you can go (to the centre) and get a form and register. On that form you indicate the skills that you have to volunteer and you also say the times you are available to volunteer,” the Council’s CEO informs. She says the CVSS is then able to use that information and link persons with organisations needing their skills.

She tells JIS News that the Council is planning to have a similar system, where agencies that need volunteers can also log on to the system and indicate the areas in which they need assistance.

The information collected by the National Volunteer Centre will be used to feed into the National Registry of Volunteers, which the Council is seeking to revamp. The Registry was launched in 2003 and currently there are nearly 12,000 volunteers on the database. However, the CVSS says it is looking to upgrade the database’s capabilities and classification system.

Mrs. Wilkins says the database will enhance the co-ordinating function of the National Volunteer Centre.

The CEO says that in addition to the value that volunteerism brings to the country, she has seen the value it adds to the lives of volunteers who have testified that volunteerism has been one of the greatest learning experiences for them. “Volunteerism is an important vehicle to enhancing a person’s life,” she emphasises.

President of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), Mrs. Hermoine McKenzie, has been volunteering since childhood through organisations, such as the Girl Guides and is a very active volunteer in her organisation. She sees volunteerism as an important part of nation building and says she is happy about the inclusion of volunteerism as a major feature of the National Transformation Programme.

She is encouraging other Jamaicans to get involved in volunteerism, as the feeling of belonging when one is part of a social organisation, “is a great reward in itself.”

Mrs. McKenzie also works with the CVSS and was recently appointed to the Board of the Council. She tells JIS News that a major role the CVSS can play under the NTP is to increase volunteer activity in rural areas. She says most volunteers are concentrated in the urban areas, and the NTP, along with the CVSS, can be the driving force behind intensifying voluntary activity in rural Jamaica.

“What the National Transformation Programme can do is help to duplicate some of the work that’s being done in Kingston in other areas. That’s a real challenge and an exciting new opportunity for the National Transformation Programme,” she suggests.

She is also recommending that a system be developed through which unemployed persons are given an incentive or support when they volunteer.

“You can’t expect people to volunteer with a hungry belly, so therefore if you are planning on mobilising volunteers at the unemployed level, you have to consider looking for some funding for at least a stipend for these people. Some little gratuity or something that helps them at least, so they can have the bus fare to go home,” Mrs. McKenzie says.

Director of Sustainable Development and Regional Planning, at the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Ms. Claire Bernard, has been volunteering with the CVSS for the last six years.

“It’s an opportunity to serve, to do something that is not a part of my regular day-to-day activities at work,” she says. According to Ms. Bernard, working as a volunteer is also a chance to interact with various persons from other professions and a chance to “catch the fever” of national development.

Pointing to her work in development planning, Ms. Bernard says volunteerism is an important aspect of development and that even in crafting Vision 2030, which is Jamaica’s road map to developed country status, the Government has recognised the importance of partnerships with voluntary organisations.

“We know that the Government cannot do everything by itself. There is something called partnership,” she explains.

Ms. Bernard is also encouraging other persons to volunteer, noting that there are many outlets through which people can give service.

To register with the CVSS, interested Jamaicans can visit the organisation at 2D Camp Road, Kingston, or visit the website of the CVSS at: www.cvssjamaica.org.

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