My Fellow Citizens and Residents,
It is my great honour as Prime Minister of this beautiful Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis to encourage you to participate in a new annual initiative that my Government has introduced to foster a greater sense of civic identity, unity, service and responsibility in our fellow men, women, boys and girls.
After consultation with my Cabinet colleagues, I advised the Governor-General, His Excellency Sir S.W. Tapley Seaton, to declare Saturday, February 17th, 2018, the first annual National Volunteer Day. The Governor-General has consented, and so National Volunteer Day will be celebrated this Saturday to rally all our citizens and residents in service to the infirmed, to the poor and indigent; to the differently abled; to vulnerable and at-risk children, and to our elderly and shut-ins all across St. Kitts and Nevis.
To this end, the first annual National Volunteer Day will see non-governmental and service organizations join with the Government in supporting, positively impacting and uplifting our communities.
At last count, 23 service groups have expressed to the Ministry of Community Development their interest in doing something this Saturday. For instance, the recently formed Mol-Phil and Shadwell Explorers Youth Clubs, which both fall under the umbrella of the Ministry of National Security’s Crime Reduction and Prevention Strategy, will beautify their neighbourhoods by planting trees and cleaning up their environs.
For the Government’s part, this National Volunteer Day, His Excellency the Governor-General will host a luncheon in honour of the indigent and elderly, and my Cabinet colleagues and I will have the pleasure of serving a delicious, nutritious meal to them.
My fellow citizens and residents, it is my hope that all of you – indeed, each and every one of us – will offer some kind of help and assistance across the breadth and length of the Nation to persons in need on Saturday, February 17th, National Volunteer Day.
Whether you help to carry your neighbours’ groceries from the car to the front door; take a meal to a shut-in; go on a walk or a drive with your elderly parent or relative; clean your sick friend’s house or tend to her lawn – or send a cleaning service or landscaper to do that; send flowers or a care package to a hospital patient; visit someone who is lonely, or simply open a door for a stranger whose hands are filled with bags – no matter how small – your contributions on National Volunteer Day will make this first-ever initiative in St. Kitts and Nevis a phenomenal success.
Whatever you do this National Volunteer Day, my Government and I invite you to do it with grace and a loving heart. We encourage you to do something to make a difference in people’s hearts and lives so that they can pass the feeling of gratitude on to others. Importantly, too, my Government and I want you to reach out in service to others, including strangers, so that your good works can be shining examples to our Nation’s youth.
This National Volunteer Day, and every day going forward, we want our citizens and residents to work with the Government to help us build a culture that promotes civic identity, unity, service and responsibility, where giving is prized over receiving, and doing for others and donating one’s time are valued as opportunities for self-growth and community development, as well as openings to renew family and social ties.
To make civic identity, unity, service and responsibility become ingrained in the St. Kitts-Nevis culture, we must start with our young people – for they represent the Federation’s bright future.
This week, the Department of Youth Empowerment will launch the Volunteer Corps, a service-oriented group of young people that is already 250-member strong. Students of the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College and the Advanced Vocational Education Centre (AVEC) who are enrolled in the Department of Education’s Supporting Advancement of Further Education (SAFE) Programme are automatically members of this corps of volunteers. The Volunteer Corps is open to residents of St. Kitts and Nevis between the ages of 16 and 35 years old, whether or not they are members of the SAFE Programme. All Volunteer Corps members must undergo an orientation and training workshop. If you are interested in engaging in community service through the Volunteer Corps, I invite you to register with the Department of Youth Empowerment by phoning 467-1393 or 662-6054. You can also connect with the Department on Facebook at skbyouthempowerment.
The new Volunteer Corps and National Volunteer Day initiatives are just two examples of my Government’s dedication to opening doors to a new ethos in St. Kitts and Nevis. We are opening doors to teamwork and collaboration, to life opportunities, and for people who have traditionally been deprived.
We have opened doors to a world of possibilities for families all across this country since taking office three years ago and we won’t let up. The removal of 17% VAT from food, medicines, funeral expenses and educational supplies; record job gains and wage growth; the first mental health day treatment centre; the first cancer treatment centre, and the first staging of a National College, Health and Career Fair being planned for Friday, February 23rd in the Independence Square are just a few examples of how my Government is serving and empowering our population. That’s why my Government’s third year anniversary extended week of activities is being celebrated this week under the theme Opening Doors and Creating Opportunities Through Service and Empowerment.
That theme, the launch of the Volunteer Corps, and this brand-new National Volunteer Day, which we will celebrate annually every third Saturday in February, serve to impress upon all of us that we are required to give dutiful and unwavering service to our country and all of the people in it. We are required to serve all of our citizens and residents, irrespective of political affiliation, social and economic status, and all the other differences that threaten to divide us.
Let us keep in the front of our minds this Saturday, February 17th, National Volunteer Day, and each and every day, that as proud, patriotic citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis, we are all duty-bound to put “Country Above Self” and the collective above individual interests.
Indeed, we are duty-bound to empower each other, especially the elderly, the vulnerable, the poor and infirmed, knowing that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Love of country therefore weds us to a life of service to our fellow citizens and residents.
Let us therefore muster a greater sense of civic identity, unity, service and responsibility, for united we stand; divided we fall – and we have come too far and worked too hard to throw our gains away.
To God be the Glory, great things He has done and great things He shall continue to do for us, if we continue to love Him – and one another – with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. May God bless us all. I thank you.