Everybody becomes volunteers – concerted efforts on International Volunteer Day 2013 in Apia

Dec 9, 2013

UNV student volunteer Tatsuya Hayashi and UNDP staff Aliitasi Petaia, man the MyWorld survey booth during IVD 2013. Photo credit: Jasmine Subaṣat.

Samoa is rich with volunteers and through its history Samoa has embraced volunteerism.  To celebrate International Volunteer Day (IVD) volunteers in Samoa joined with volunteers throughout the world to celebrate the power of volunteerism and give recognition to all volunteers worldwide.

Samoa’s IVD 2013 event took place on Saturday 7 December this year instead of Thursday 5 December to allow for volunteers who work on week-days to participate. As the celebrations were in the middle of the cyclone season, everyone crossed their fingers that the weather would be on our side. And it was: despite threatening rain clouds the day stayed fine and the events began in beautiful early morning sun shine.

It was a long day for all involved. A number of volunteers agreed to help out with preparation of the opening ceremony and gathered at the Samoa Tourist Authority (STA) Fale at 6:30 am to await the arrival of the chairs and tables. At the same time, others gathered in the space next to the Police Station, the starting point for the march. While the march was scheduled to commence at 8am, the meeting place was still empty at 7am, giving the organiser a few anxious moments. This is Samoa though and things work on Pacific Time, and by 8am there were a healthy number of people assembled. Many were dressed in blue, the ‘colour of the day’ agreed in the preparation meeting. Ramoa Boodoodingh, a volunteer of the day was kept busy registering individuals and groups as they arrived. At 8 am, the police band struck up a tune and began the march, the assembled volunteers falling in behind.  Among the many organisations represented were UNV, JICA, VSA, Red Cross, SUNGO and a women’s healers  group.

In the end around100 people marched from the Police station to STA Fale by way of the government building. The band stopped in front of the building to raise the national flag, then led the march to the fale before marching away. Each of the volunteer groups marched with their own banners and flags and spirits were high. While a lady from the group of healers in green danced in front of the march, Kenneth Wong, a VSA volunteer documented the event through photographs.

While the various groups were gathering and marching the volunteers at the STA Fale were preparing for the opening ceremony after beautifully setting up chairs and tables awaiting the arrival of the volunteers who marched. Volunteers presented the keynote speakers and VIPs with fresh flower arrays (ula in Samoan) which were made by other volunteers.

The ceremony opened up with a prayer by Rev. Lotaua Mose. He was followed by Lizbeth Cullity, UN Resident Corordinator who was newly arrived at the Samoa Multi-Country Office. Lizbeth congratulated the organisers and the participants and spoke about the importance of volunteerism. The keynote speaker was Vaasiliifiti Moelagi Jackson, the president of Samoa Red Cross Society, who may be ideally suited for this role, having been a long serving volunteer in Samoa. Each of the speakers in turn celebrated the role of volunteers.

After the ceremony, which was attended by more than 120 volunteers, concluded each organisation held events such as volleyball and interactive games. UNV set up a booth and invited participants to complete the MyWorld survey (see photo above). The day was very hot so it was fortunate that there was a shower during the event to give us a cool breeze.

Everyone agreed that the event was a success and good experience for all of us. We are determined to build on this experience and plan to have an even better IVD event in 2014.

I would like to thank everyone who helped in the preparations for this event and all those who marched on the day. You all played a vital part in making International Volunteer Day 2013 a very successful and highly enjoyable event. 

Written by Dr Jasmine Y Subaṣat

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