Helping others and themselves
Published: May 29, 2013
When 17-year-old Robert Kramer volunteers at Rand Memorial Hospital and local senior citizens' home, he's not only helping others, but also himself.
As a student enrolled in the Lend a Hand, Junior Volunteer Programme (JVP), the eleventh grade student along with 39 other students across the island work for three hours each week, helping to relieve the pressure on healthcare professionals by keeping patients entertained. As “candy stripers” students are given duties similar to that of hospital orderlies including cleaning, distributing food to patients, and helping to move patients and materials around the facility.
Through his community service activity, Kramer, a participant in the Governor General's Youth Award (GGYA), is also fulfilling requirements to receive his Gold Award from the internationally recognized award program.
"The aim of the Junior Volunteer Programme aligns with one of the objectives of the GGYA and that is to develop and encourage a sense of community spirit and foster a sense of responsibility for others," says GGYA national director, Denise Mortimer. "The great thing about the GGYA is that it ties into the varied parts of a youth's life: community service, special skills, and recreation/sports. It allows all the hard work they've put into these areas — through other youth programmes and initiatives — to culminate in one significant award, be it Bronze, Silver, or Gold."
Participants in the GGYA complete four different types of activity at the Bronze and Silver level and five at the Gold level in order to achieve an Award. They must undertake a community service, improve and participate in a physical activity, develop a skill which ties into their own personal interest; and plan, train for and complete a hiking expedition.
Each Award level requires an increasing commitment of time, starting at six months for the Bronze. Those participants pursuing a Gold Award must also engage in a residential activity where they stay and work away from home while engaged in a shared community service activity.
In fact, Kramer will represent The Bahamas in Barbados, in August, as a part of the 34th Annual Caribbean Award Sub Regional Council (CASC) 2013 Adventurous Journey. The event brings together participants in the Duke of Edinburgh Award [the program's international name] from other parts of the region.
"GGYA has made me a better person. It has been tough so far, but it has made my character strong. I feel as though [I'm] untouchable and unbreakable," says Kramer, a GGYA participant since 2009. "For its part, the JVP has made me more inclined to give back. These are the things that make the world a better place."
Lending a hand
Birthed out of a civics class at St. Georges High School, the Junior Volunteer Programme was launched in 2011, with nine student volunteers.
According to Frazette Gibson, the program's founder and coordinator, the students' loyalty and dedication are inspiring.
"This experience has really given them a different outlook on life," said the civics teacher. "They learn how to treat their parents and grandparents when they [get older]."
JVP and GGYA participant, Antonae Francis said volunteering has proved to be a rewarding experience.
"A lot of work is required to deal with the elderly," she said. "You have to be really dedicated to take on such a difficult task."
JVP and GGYA participant, Steven Martin has been nominated for the Ministry of Youth's 'Outstanding Youth Award.'
On June 6, he'll receive his Silver Award from the GGYA.
"Being a part of the GGYA has made me a stronger, outdoor person, and has taught me how to adapt to any environment, as well as how to be a more disciplined individual," he said. "JVP has made me see that there are many in the world who are so much less fortunate, not only in material things but also love and companionship."
Kramer summed up his volunteer experienced this way: "There are only a handful of people that are willing to help, and I consider myself to be one of them."