THE PRIME MINISTER: Ladies and Gentlemen: This evening we launch “Volunteer Bahamas”.
Through Volunteer Bahamas we seek to:
• Create safer, healthier and more non-violent communities
• Build on existing community building initiatives by churches, corporate citizens, charities, clubs, philanthropic groups and private individuals
Volunteer Bahamas includes community service in many and diverse areas of national life from mentoring young men and women, to caring for the elderly, to environmental protection and to preservation of Bahamian heritage.
It means giving of our time, talents and treasure.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
We seek to build a more peaceful and non-violent society. We seek to build a society marked by genuine patriotism and love of country, measured by a commitment to fairness and care and concern for the more vulnerable among us.
We seek to foster virtues such as kindness and compassion, civility and comity, gratitude and generosity.
Gratitude and generosity are companion virtues. The most generous people are also those filled with gratitude.
The response to the call for an era of volunteerism is encouraging, testifying to the essential goodness of the Bahamian people and our yearning to renew the spirit of community and fellowship. To date some 359 people have registered to volunteer; that number continues to grow. While Government has an essential role in society, it is no substitute for the personal responsibility required for good family life and avoiding criminal and antisocial behaviour.
Nor is Government a substitute for or a replacement for the role of civil society. This is why Government alone cannot fully address matters such as criminality, incivility and anti-social behaviour.
To put it more affirmatively, it is the citizenry acting individually and sometimes collectively, through families, churches, service clubs, schools, Lodges, foundations, businesses and other private groups in collaboration with Government can cause renewal of community life, combat the negative influences harmful to and destructive of our communities and assist in our return to good old traditional Bahamian values like respect for our elders. Service
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The call of service is one of the deepest desires of the human spirit. It finds expression in many fields of endeavour including in public service.
The rewards and fruits of service are not to be found only in those individuals and institutions who are the recipients of such service for those rendering service often receive many intangibles in return for their service.
Those intangibles often include the joy and satisfaction service brings. Someone who mentors a young person may discover that genuine service is that of empathy and understanding; that it is not about doing something for someone. Instead it is about the kind of solidarity and reciprocity one will find in any relationship of mutual respect.
We instituted community service programmes in our junior and secondary schools. The intention was to ensure that as a prerequisite to school-leaving every student in the government-operated school system would be engaged in a service-learning experience.
The idea has enjoyed success, but we seek more and hence the Minister of Education and his staff have been charged with revamping and retooling the programme.
Launching Volunteer Bahamas
To spearhead Volunteer Bahamas we have designated a National Committee, the New Providence members of which I am pleased to announce today:
*Mr. K. Darron Turnquest – Co-chairperson
*Mrs. Pauline Davis –Thompson – Co-chairperson
*Mr. Algernon Allen – Member
*Mr. Charles Sealey – Member
*Ms. Nicole Martin – Member
*Mr. Winston Rolle – Member
*Mr. Ray Jennings – Member
*Dr. Victor Cooper – Member
*Father James Moultrie – Member
*Ms. Charlotte Albury – Member
*Father Kendrick Forbes – Member
*Ms. Deandra Cartwright – Member
* Mr. Alphonso Major – Member
To highlight and help support those social entrepreneurs and community leaders who are engaged in innovative and effective youth and urban outreach programmes, we will make available small grants. I should note that the amount of funds available may be increased depending on the needs and available resources.
I use this occasion to thank our Faith-Based and Community-Based Organizations for their good works and to encourage them to become even more involved in mentoring, volunteering and giving, especially as regards young people in general and for youth-at-risk in particular. I note in particular the urgent need for mentoring and tutouring programmes for young boys and adolescent males.
Ladies and Gentlemen:
The inspiration behind “Get Involved” composed by Tyrone Fitzgerald, “Dr. Off” is still timely. With the gracious consent of his family and the talent of a new generation of artists, the “Bahamian All-Stars” Dr. Off’s message has been tweaked to speak to us today.
Inspired by the Sermon on the Mount and an ethic of love, the Christian community has for generations clothed, fed, comforted and helped to heal tens of thousands of Bahamians; and they continue to do so today.
Inspired by humanitarian values and the call of service, men and women’s service clubs, uniformed youth organizations and other groups have afforded thousands of citizens the opportunity to serve while helping thousands of others through the gift of service.
Inspired by the challenges of physical and mental health in areas ranging from autism to cancer, HIV/AIDS to autism, to Parkinson’s Disease, to diabetes, to heart-related and to other diseases of body and mind, scores of organizations have been formed to care for and comfort individuals and their families.
Inspired by the need to assist children and the elderly many have come forward in service of those at the dawn and those at the evening of their lives.
And, inspired by the desire to help preserve and showcase our natural and built heritage many work tirelessly to protect our natural environment and cultural treasury.
The spirit of service and giving has also found common cause in those foundations, corporate citizens and individuals who have generously donated, sometimes anonymously, their financial assistance in areas ranging from education and scholarships, to sports and the arts, to youth development and assistance with a range of projects such as the Betty Kenning Aquatic Centre and public recreational spaces.
The thousands of volunteers who give of their time, talents and treasures speak to the best of the Bahamian spirit. They volunteer not for the sake of recognition. They volunteer because it ennobles the human spirit and gives voice and wings to the better angels of our nature, individually and collectively.
The many faces of volunteerism include Bahamians and residents. It includes a husband and wife team who every Saturday, along with other volunteers, run a model youth development programme, and another husband and wife team who have given significant pro bono work to assist in heritage development.
It includes veteran coaches who have for years mentored young Bahamians in teamwork and discipline through athletic competition. It includes men and women who have made volunteerism their life’s vocation by helping disabled and orphaned children.
It includes teachers, nurses and social workers who serve far beyond the call of duty to assist those in need of special support and attention.
It includes winter and other residents of The Bahamas, who, throughout the length and breadth of our country have donated financial assistance, computers and scholarships to help thousands of students throughout the islands, settlements and cays of our Commonwealth.
The faces of volunteerism include those who are responding to the challenges of today, including combating criminality and its causes, through dedicated programmes from alternative sentencing initiatives to efforts in urban outreach.
I acknowledge too the many fine community service programmes of the Royal Bahamas Police Force and the Royal Bahamas Defence Force. Conclusion
Ladies and Gentlemen:
Amidst the challenges of today, let us not be blinded to the goodness among us and the possibilities of tomorrow. We are a fortunate people, and there is much for which to be grateful.
In gratitude for all that we have and in recognition that there is much we can do to renew the bonds of community and civic pride, let us dedicate ourselves anew to the potential which lies within our reach.
In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with hearts full of grace and souls full of love and as testimony to ourselves of all that is good and noble in our Bahamas, let us Volunteer Bahamas.
I acknowledge the efforts of the Ministers of Social Development and Labour; Youth, Sports and Culture; and Education and their staffs for the hard work and considerable enthusiasm they have demonstrated in the creation of Volunteer Bahamas. I thank also the media representatives and civic-minded individuals who are involved in today’s launch and in helping to making real the dream of marshalling an army of volunteers dedicated to community service.
I thank you and good evening.