The contribution that volunteer organisations make to society in general cannot be appraised ever enough. They are many, varied and dedicated to different sectors which, particularly in a small archipelago like ours, can only thrive through the committed backing they get from volunteers and employees who, in turn, need to find the constant support of the country’s administration in sustaining their valuable work.

It was with this realistic thought in mind that I recently took up the new addition to my ministerial portfolio – volunteer organisations. It is with a sense of pride and enthusiasm that I hope to repay Prime Minister Robert Abela’s trust in me and the numerous departments, agencies and other bodies that fall under the Ministry for Inclusion, Quality of Life and Youth.

Attaching the new volunteer organisations’ wagon to an efficient, fast-moving train is a challenge we cherish and look forward to making it a part of the success story that started in 2013, was reinvigorated in 2017 and destined to reach new destinations.

The policies and strategies adopted thus far have been far-reaching and truly innovative thanks only to one prerequisite, that of being with the people, sharing in their happy and dark moments, seeking to ensure that our actions and decisions are based on a genuinely strong belief in social justice at all levels of society, whatever the prevailing circumstances.

This has been amply manifested during the current pandemic. Suffice to say not a single job was lost – from about 5,500 – in the volunteer sector, thanks to the government’s financial support in the inevitable absence of fundraisers and sponsorships.

At a time when the volunteer organisations themselves were threatened by ensuing dissolution, two schemes were quickly introduced to support the salaries of their employees, rental and utility bills as well as the purchase of pandemic-related safety materials. In total, an infusion of over €6 million, which guaranteed the established services and the survival of over 200 volunteer organisations.

Forming an integral part of Malta’s evolving society, volunteering and voluntary organisations are part and parcel of the future we envisage in the name of inclusion, quality of life and social justice. Supporting them and enabling them to provide their much-treasured services is an underlying focus as we endeavour to keep the train going, to reach those new destinations and to help Maltese society develop into a conglomeration of communities, each with their own ambitions, aspirations and targets.

Voluntary organisations are part and parcel of the future we envisage in the name of inclusion, quality of life and social justice- Julia Farrugia Portelli

To maintain and even raise the required tempo, the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector (MCVS) will still need to provide various schemes and initiatives, from conferences, training sessions and infrastructural plans to service and community initiatives as well as environmental interventions.

This can be achieved through funding schemes such as the Small Initiatives Scheme (SIS), the Voluntary Organisations Projects Scheme (VOPS), the Civil Society Fund (CSF), the Training Initiatives Scheme (TIS) and the Youth Voluntary Scheme (YVS) which, together, provide an annual financial boost of over €1 million.

Streamlining the whole set-up is another prerequisite which, in the last few days, was an important part of my first discussions with Mauro Pace Parascandalo, chief executive of the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector, whose dedication and expertise will further instigate the process of launching new initiatives and maintaining established ones through the government’s financial support and, in so doing, guarantee the ongoing operation, services and support given by sundry voluntary organisations, especially in these critical times.

Being there for everyone is a maxim we not only believe in or pay lip service to but we also act to make it happen, rain or shine. It is our duty to be there and we are determined to be there so everyone can find us.

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