SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERISM

SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERISM – BASIL SPRINGER COLUMN WHICH APPEARED IN THE BARBADOS ADVOCATE’S BUSINESS MONDAY ON JANUARY 17, 2011
 
“I can do everything through Christ, who gives me the strength.” – Philippians 4:13
 
A visit to the Rotary International (RI) website reveals that RI is the world’s largest service organisation for business and professional people, with some 1,243,000 members in 163 countries worldwide.
 
On February 23, 1905, Chicago lawyer, Paul P. Harris, called three friends to a meeting. What he had in mind was a club that would kindle fellowship among members of the business community. The four businessmen did not decide then and there to call themselves a Rotary Club, but their get-together was, in fact, the first meeting of the world’s first Rotary Club. As they continued to meet, adding others to the group, they rotated their meetings among the members’ places of business, hence the name.
 
In Barbados there are three Rotary Clubs, in chronological order of establishment:
(1) Barbados, Barbados; (2) Barbados, West; and (3) Barbados, South. Our club is the youngest of the three and on Thursday we recorded our 25th anniversary. Last week was one of celebration beginning with a church service at St. Matthias Church where Rev. deVere Murrell conducted what was for me a very innovative and attractive service format where he engaged in interactive dialogue with the children and adults in the congregation. Keith Bourne, also noted for his credit union exploits, was ever energetic as he tickled the ivories of the organ.
 
The next event on Wednesday was a guest lecture by Professor Pedro Welch, Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Education at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus. The theme of his lecture was “Volunteerism and Vision” and he stimulated much thought as he traced the history of volunteerism and concluded that it is as relevant in today’s modern world as it ever was. Another event was the feeding of the indigent at Heroes Square on Thursday night and the week culminated with a cocktail reception at the Prime Minister’s residence at Ilaro Court where the past Presidents of the club were all recognised for their contributions over the years.
 
The motto of RI is “Service above Self’ and it is indeed an organization of volunteers. Rotarians, who are busy business people, are encouraged to manage their time so as to achieve a harmonious mix between professional activity, health, personal development and volunteerism, as a way of giving back to society.
 
Professor Welch, stimulated thought in many areas and for me this triggered a question to which he very kindly responded. I painted the picture of Barbados with a governance structure which consists of a social compact (government, private sector and trade unions) with inputs also from civil society. Even though Barbados has certainly not showed any tendency to sink to the depths of despair since gaining independence from Great Britain in 1966, it has only maintained an even keel even though, in my opinion, we have the potential for sustained exponential growth.
Indeed there are many countries, including the Asian Tigers, which have surpassed Barbados in terms of growth and socio-economic wellbeing, even though at the time of Barbados’ Independence, according to all socio economic indicators, Barbados was well ahead of the pack.
 
Even though today Barbados is said to punch above its weight, there is something missing in terms of the drive to achieve this exponential growth. I reminded Professor Welch of the current activities of the E team which is a group of local and international volunteers with an interest in the development of Barbados. Last year they formed themselves into the “The Barbados Entrepreneurship Foundation” and set themselves the goal: “Barbados the Number One Entrepreneurial Hub in the World by 2020.
 
The first step towards this goal was a Summit held in November 2010 and there will be 10 other Summits, culminating in the “moon landing” in 2020. There was tremendous response at the 2010 Summit and this has been sustained subsequently as we conducted our first monthly networking session. The next monthly session takes place at the Island Inn tomorrow night. I shared with Prof. Welch the potential thrust which is about to be experienced as the BEF mobilises and puts this abundance of voluntary assistance into action. This potential energy has been likened to a positive tsunami which is about to penetrate the shores of Barbados. Instead of seeking higher ground, in this tsunami we all join hands and put our shoulders to the plough as we ride on the momentum generated. My specific question was “How does he think such an initiative would be received in Barbados?”
 
He responded immediately, admitting that he was not privy to the details of the initiative, but pointed out two key issues that should be addressed. Firstly, human nature is such that those governing the status quo tend to be resistant to change especially changes which might be effected by tsunami type forces; but secondly he noted that, if there is buy-in for the new dispensation then the same human beings might be persuaded to go along for the ride especially in search of greener pastures on the other side of the fence.
 
I thanked him and reclined in the comfort of the knowledge that the BEF had extended its arms to as wide a cross section of stakeholders as possible with promising responses. 
 
We promote the philosophy that “if Barbados wins, we all win”. Do not use your limitations as an excuse for avoiding what God calls you to do.
 
 (Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. – CBET – Columns are archived at www.cbetmodel.org)

Leave a Reply