CVSS, the United Way and The Power of Youth Volunteerism

October 14th, 2017

What do you know about the Council for Voluntary Social Services (CVSS) and United Way of Jamaica? I’m sure that you have been hearing about them for years, but are unaware of the work they do.


Well, my feet turned into the entrance to the National Volunteer Centre (NVC) on Camp Road. This is where the CVSS action takes place; CVSS is actually an umbrella organisation of voluntary groups. The NVC is a bright, well painted building that you really cannot miss as you traverse this Kingston thoroughfare, which boasts security-related compounds on one side and social service-related buildings on the other. Quite a contrast, really! Opposite are the well fortified premises of the Jamaica Defence Force and the South Camp Correctional Centre. While the other side of the road appears to be mostly keeping people out, with “nuff” barbed wire, the Centre and its surrounding organisations welcome people in.

Community members receive training on the Zika virus at the St John Ambulance headquarters on Camp Road in February 2016. (My photo)

Community members receive training on the Zika virus at the St John Ambulance headquarters on Camp Road in February 2016. (My photo)

Near to the Centre are several other offices, none of which, sadly, are as well-appointed. Funds for (and to some extent, interest in) voluntary organisations such as St. John Jamaica, the Boys’ Brigade and the Jamaica Red Cross are sadly lacking. However, what it lacks in financial support this group makes up for in energy and purposeful activity. All of these organisations participated in the hugely successful CVSS/UWJ/UWI Research Day 2017 on October 12.

How important is data, these days? Data is “everything,” in my view – and Jamaica and its institutions should take it very seriously. I hope they are, because planning that is not evidence-based, but just based on assumptions and guesswork, is certainly going nowhere.

The primary goal of the day was to gather and collect primary research data from young adults (aged 16 to 24 years) in Kingston, St. Andrew, St. Catherine and Clarendon, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Social Work Unit. Throughout the day, focus group and planning meetings took place in several of the outlying buildings, while all kinds of presentations were taking place in the main hall. The symposium was intended to strengthen the planning process and “boosting the confidence” of sector players – in other words, encouraging those who have the knowledge, information and motivation to play a more active role and overt role in national planning.

Because, believe me, these people in non-governmental organisations know what is happening on the ground. They are not highly paid consultants. But they know it, observe it, record it, feel it. And they base their service delivery on what they see.

Not least of all, the event was intended to highlight the importance of youth volunteerism to national development. Can this ever be emphasised enough?

Emprezz Golding.

Emprezz Golding.

The motivational talk by Emprezz Golding and the jingles competition, involving a dozen or so youth volunteer groups from across the island, was a major highlight of the day. Emprezz was simply outstanding, galvanising the audience (mostly in their teens, twenties and thirties) and not only encouraging, but challenging them. Yes, the youth need to be challenged.

“I’m sorry to say this, but some people just don’t care about you,” she told the young people. “But you care, and that’s what matters.”

The youth groups simply outdid each other in the jingles competition. The influence of dancehall and hip hop was much in evidence, as each group of three or four young people (pretty evenly balanced in terms of gender) threw inhibition to the winds as they warmed to the task. The jingles had to include the words “volunteer” and “community.” Mikey Bennett was one of the judges; while everyone else was whooping and yelling (RISE Life Management, Alpha Boys and others nearly brought the house down) they were serious. I need to find out who won, but it would have been a difficult task.

I took note of the sponsors of the day – many of them government agencies such as the National Housing Trust and Vision 2030 National Development Plan – but hoped that there might have been more high-profile support from our private sector. It was not really visible. However, major kudos is due to the Jamaica National Group, Phase Three Productions and Victoria Mutual Building Society, as well as the ever-faithful Patsy Lyn Caterers.

No thanks to the media, who unsurprisingly were conspicuous by their absence. They were probably busy with politicians and criminals – although perhaps one or two showed up for Minister Floyd Green’s speech later that day (I left at midday, so I don’t know).

JN Foundation's Saffrey Brown (left) makes a donation to United Way of Jamaica. At right is CVSS CEO Winsome Wilkins. (Photo: United Way of Jamaica website)

JN Foundation’s Saffrey Brown (left) makes a donation to United Way of Jamaica. At right is CVSS CEO Winsome Wilkins. (Photo: United Way of Jamaica website)

Huge congratulations to Dr. Marcia Forbes, Chair of the Planning and Research Committee, United Way – who worked so hard; to Winsome Wilkins, Saffrey Brown and Kim Mair (CEO, Chair and Vice Chair of CVSS, respectively); the extraordinary and dynamic Emprezz Golding; to the hard-working Sonita Abrahams of RISE Life Management Services; and to Nicola Williams, Assistant Lecturer at UWI, who pulled the focus groups together.

You have perhaps noticed one thing about all the names mentioned above. They are all women.

Find out more and look at photographs and posts by looking up these hashtags: #CVSSUnitedResearch #GoVolunteerJA

Contact the CVSS: Email:  Website:  Head Office: 122-126 Tower Street, Kingston; Tel: (876) 922-9365. National Volunteer Centre: 2D Camp Road, Kingston 4; Tel: (876) 906-0065. Follow on Facebook and Twitter @CVSSJa

Contact United Way of Jamaica: 122 Tower Street, Kingston; Tel. (876) 922-9424. Email: Follow on Facebook and Twitter @UnitedWayJA




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