THE umbrella organisation for volunteer groups in Jamaica, the Council of Voluntary Social Services (CVSS), has said that available funds are one of the major problems affecting it.
However, despite the dwindling resources, the organisation has also said that volunteerism in the island is very much alive and continues to grow each year.
“For any parent organisation, which we are, we get monetary resources from our members who pay an annual fee,” project assistant with the organisation Dacia Cruickshank told the Jamaica Observer in a recent interview.
“Many of our organisations, due to the type of work that they do (voluntary), are not in a position to do so,” she continued. “For organisations within the voluntary sector, much of our resources come from external sources, and many of those options are dwindling, making it difficult to do as much work as we would want to.”
The organisation, which was established in 1940 by Norman Manley, gets 65 per cent of its funding from the United Way while it is responsible for the other 35 per cent.
Another problem facing the group is that it is not present in all regions of Jamaica, so its reach, in terms of who it can engage and the support it can rally around volunteerism, is limited.
The body is, however, looking to improve this, going forward.
“(We want) to strengthen our ability in facilitating the process of matching volunteers to opportunities and allowing organisations to fill opportunities with volunteers, which can be done on our website : www.govolunteer.com.jm” said Cruikshank. “Our desire is to get the attention of all sectors of Jamaica to get on board and support volunteer organisations and volunteer initiatives that contribute so aptly to our society.”
Despite the challenges, the organisation, which has more than 100 affiliates, is pressing ahead and, as the “largest and longest-serving non-profit umbrella organisation”, manages to remain current.
Its most recent volunteer project was its eighth annual Day of Care on December 7, 2013, at the St William Grant Park in downtown Kingston, which was a celebration of International Volunteer Day, which is celebrated every year on December 5.
“Last year we budgeted for 800 homeless persons from the downtown area region, including Cross Roads and New Kingston,” Cruickshank told the Sunday Observer.
“We had a little over 500 persons signing up registration forms as ‘homeless’ and all received care packages,” Cruickshank shared. “We also went out into the streets to reach those homeless persons who did not come into the park for the event.
“The surplus was sent to the poor relief department of the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, who partnered with the CVSS for the event,” Cruickshank said. “So the numbers for those who benefit continue to increase.”
Cruickshank said that the support for the Day of Care was overwhelming.
On the day, the CVSS, through its partner agencies and corporate Jamaica, provided breakfast, care packages, medical services, lunch, as well as clothing, to the homeless.
Those who ventured into the park for the Day of Care were able to have their diabetes and blood pressures checked, as well as get their hair cut, and in some cases styled, and also register for senior citizens’ identification cards.
They had soup and patties for breakfast, which was provided by Juici Patties, and were also able to get clothing which was solicited from the public and fitted on the day. The homeless walked away with pre-packaged hygiene kits that included tissue, toothpaste, rags, soaps, and toothbrushes.
Cruickshank said that besides the cash and kind donated for the initiative, volunteers came out in their numbers to facilitate the activities on the ground.
“Since its (Day of Care) inception, it has grown,” said Cruickshank. “Our medical services have increased as every year additional partners come on board and we always have partners who return each year. It never misses them.
“Financially, corporate Jamaica has really contributed in both cash and kind,” Cruickshank said.
CVSS is aimed at building the capacity of its members, who are engaged in health, education, community development, agricultural, skills training, and advocacy programmes, and the wider community, to create sustainable alliances and to facilitate mutual support and joint action. It is geared towards representing the concerns of the social sector, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups, at both the national and international levels.
The CVSS established the National Volunteer Centre, which it says is the “focal point for volunteer training” and it also houses the national registry of volunteers.
With 12 core staff members, project staff as well as interns and trainees, the organisation says it also offers several benefits to members such as: access to funding for qualified projects from United Way Jamaica; ongoing information regarding funding sources; training for staff and volunteers; access to skills bank of resource persons; exposure for membership; health insurance and pension scheme for NGO staff; and networking opportunities.