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Operation Friendship emerged the overall winner at this year’s International Volunteer Day Awards Ceremony for the parish of Kingston on December 5.
The 45 year-old organization is one of the most respected organizations of its kind in the Caribbean, as over the years it has been very responsive to the needs of community residents, offering a comprehensive programme in health, skills training, education and other activities catering to the poor, unemployed and unskilled people in Jamaica.
Receiving the special award was Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the organization, Reverend Webster Edwards, who said his organization was grateful for the honour bestowed.
“We accept this honour with humility and in recognition that the problems are so monumental, that in essence our work is always beginning,” he said.Reverend Edwards noted, however, that despite the herculean task, which was presently being done to help the less fortunate, voluntary organizations have been literally struggling to survive.
“They live in a hand-to-mouth existence. In some agencies, staff cannot be paid, utility bills cannot be met and agencies have to spend a disproportionate amount of time in creative fund-raising, instead of focusing totally on work to be done,” he lamented.Appealing to the private sector to support the work of volunteer organizations in the country, he said that whatever the support, it would go a long way in helping the organizations.
“Each business establishment could form a relationship, however minimal, with a voluntary organization within the vicinity in which it does business. It does not have to be something extensive. It can be as simple as mentoring the children who are seeking their assistance,” the Reverend advised.
Among the other recipients were: Karl Goodison, who is a dedicated social worker and former Director of the Boys’ Town Football Club for over 20 years; Karen Scale, a tireless worker with persons living with HIV/AIDS, especially children from the Mustard Seed Community; and Percival Cordwell, whose work with youngsters in the Downtown area is legendary, as he has been coaching them football since the age of 17. Reverend Tony Cousins and Godfrey Lothian were also recipients of awards.
Some eight students, four from St. George’s Girls Primary and Infant School and the remainder from Calabar All-Age and Junior High received prizes for their entries in the poetry competition organized by the Lay Magistrates for the parish of Kingston. This was part of the Lay Magistrates activities to commemorate International Volunteers Day on December 5.
The Magistrates also visited some schools – St. Aloysius Primary, St. George’s Girls Primary and Infant School, Calabar All-Age and Junior High and Allman Town Primary from 7:30 a.m. and assisted teachers on December 4.
“I was heartened because I know that Jamaica’s future is secure, based on the experience that we had on that day,” Chairman of the International Volunteer Day Committee, Errol Greene recalled at the function.
He also urged Jamaicans to “start sharpening their skills” as the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 was fast approaching. “There is a significant role for us in Jamaica to play. we will have to show the entire world how much of a country we are in terms of our care for our fellowmen,” he said.