A National Award for Volunteers
Chamath Kalupahana
22 November 2019

The V-Awards, launched in 2010 was spearheaded by the United Nations Volunteer Programme, together with the Government under the overall guidance of the National Steering Committee on Volunteering. Though the last edition of V-Awards ended in February 2019, an effort such as it to recognize, honour and inspire volunteering effort is a national need.

During it’s inception, V-Awards flourished as a partnership between the UN and Government together with several volunteer involved organizations. Though the partnership did not flourish to its latest edition, the relationship of V-Awards with the national network was not lost. As a live show on television the V-Awards was recorded in front of close to 500 live audiences. The live finale was viewed by over 100,000 audience on television.

Aside from the pageantry of the finale the ceremony was an inspiration to volunteers, and the process an opportunity for partnership between various stakeholders of the development process. One of the most significant partnerships that flourished due to V-Awards is the National Steering Committee on Volunteering (NSC-V). The NSC-V chaired by the Ministry of Social Empowerment (or any such ministry that took the responsibility of the social empowerment and welfare portfolio), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and was convened by the United Nations Volunteers in Sri Lanka (UNV). Other key members of V-Awards through the years included the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, the National Youth Services Council, Social Policy Analysis Research Centre (SPARC) of the University of Colombo, Sri Lanka Scouts, Australian Volunteers for International Development.
The process leading to V-Awards called on members of society to nominate volunteers known to them, who are engaged in selfless service to receive awards. Recognizing that many individuals engaged in such yeoman service are often selfless and do not seek recognition, the award relied on beneficiaries and well wishers to nominate benefactors.

V-Awards through its past iterations has featured both a Youth and Thematic Award Category. Through the featured Youth Category, V Awards sought to actively engage and encourage the efforts of young people in voluntary action and further inspire younger generations in being involved in the well being of their communities. The Thematic appreciates innovative community and citizen led initiatives specifically tackling some of the most pressing and relevant issues in Sri Lanka, it also highlights the immense contribution and influence volunteerism has as a cross cutting tool in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The thematic award has previously focused on topics such as Disaster Risk Reduction, Water and most recently, Peace Building.

Though the latest edition of this unique award has ended, the exemplary effort is one to be refreshed and replicated. While there are plenty of volunteers in the country, their stories can be inspiration to many, they too need further encouragement. This brings to light the need for a national effort, perhaps with links to an international movement, that brings Sri Lanka’s selfless individuals to the fore and recognizes them.

Chamath Kalupahana
22 November 2019
Chamath Kalupahana is the former Advocacy and Outreach Assistant of UN Volunteers Sri Lanka's Peacebuilding Fund Project on Youth.


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