Side by Side Organisation The Gambia, a non-political, charitable national youth group was on Saturday conferred with a prestigious Volunteer Award by the National Volunteers Network The Gambia (VOLNET), as part of activities marking the 2012 International Volunteer Day, that focused on raising global and local awareness of and recognition for volunteers and volunteer-involving organisations.
The Bakau-based organisation that is operating in three administrative regions in the country, with focus on education, environment and sexual, reproductive health and rights, was awarded alongside 27 others including individuals and organisations during an award night ceremony held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.
The organisation that has been engaging in community service and empowerment of people through the aforementioned intervention areas, was awarded in recognition of its "outstanding and invaluable contribution to rendering selfless services in The Gambia".
The award was received on behalf of the organisation by a member of the Board of Trustees of Side by Side, Bakary Badgie.
Speaking at the ceremony, the chairperson of the National Volunteers Network The Gambia, Adama Beyai, said the day was meant for the recognition of volunteerism in all its diverse forms and contributions to peace and sustainable development. The overall global message for the celebration of this year is "Volunteer Action Counts."
"It recognises the values of volunteerism as relevant in strengthening the capacity to enhance physical, economic, spiritual and social well being; volunteer engagement as a path to promote civic values and well-being; volunteer engagement includes population groups that are often socially excluded; such as women, youth and the elderly, people with disabilities, migrants and people living with HIV/AIDS," he stated.
Beyai also used the opportunity to indicate that Volunteer Network-The Gambia (VolNet-Gam) was born out of the 2008 celebration of International Year of Volunteers with the desire of bringing all volunteers-involving organisation and individuals in The Gambia under one roof in order to harmonise their efforts in all sectors of national development.
"We believe that volunteers; whether national or international, contribute significantly to the socio-economic development of the nation; therefore the welfare of all types of volunteers is the responsibility of our nation that is benefiting from the service of these volunteers," he concluded.
The deputy permanent secretary at the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Musa Mbye, thanked the organisers for recognising the efforts of the volunteers in such a magnitude.
Reacting to the award, Side By Side Organisation The Gambia's national coordinator, Hatab Fadera, described this development as a marked recognition of their selfless services to the nation and humanity in general. He noted that since the inception of the organisation some seven years ago, volunteerism has been the hallmark of their operation anchored on the strong view that such is a catalyst to national development.
"We are definitely honoured with this award and it goes to show that our services as a youth organisation is being recognised at this level. God willing, we will remain committed to the ideals that established the organisation for the interest of national development and the advancement of humanity. I must also state that any award comes with a challenge, and therefore, I want to reaffirm our commitment to the spirit of volunteerism in the quest of making our societies a better place," Fadera remarked.
He described the award as a well deserved one, given the fact that SBSO's activities are designed to enhance the livelihoods of the people in the spirit of volunteerism.
" I would thank the Almighty Allah for giving us the opportunity to serve the most vulnerable people in The Gambia. Looking at the current activities of the organisation, they are all directed at improving the lives of people, and we carry out such activities based on humanitarian grounds. We try to instill the spirit of volunteerism in the minds of young people and the entire populace. I think the organisation deserves more than this because if it was not limited financial resource, we would have reached out to the length and breadth of the Gambia to render them our support," SBSO's administration and finance officer, Yankuba Senghore remarked.