Over 200 youth are among those providing support at a number of National Cultural Foundation’s (NCF’s) events this Crop Over. They are a part of the Youth Volunteer Programme which commenced in 2011 to increase the involvement of our young people at the Barbados Crop Over Festival.
The programme was designed to revive the spirit of volunteerism in the island along with a desire to create avenues for the preservation of our cultural heritage in the youth market, while ensuring that the product remains relevant for generations to come.
Since its inception the Foundation has welcomed over 1,000 volunteers to the programme with many returning year after year. This season’s volunteers have already been selected, trained and assigned to work at events, but NCF Festival and Events Planner, Karen Pestaina says that in addition to the returnees, the organisation accepts a new crop of volunteers each year, so there is always room for registration next year. She extended the invitation to anyone between the ages of 16 and 26 to join the team in 2020.
Incidentally, this year’s theme is T.E.A.M – Together Everyone Achieves More, said Pestaina, who explained that this is the underlying thread and a high priority throughout the programme. There is no ‘I’ in team and these youth volunteers are being taught to work together, to appreciate people’s differences and differing strengths, and to be helpful to everyone involved in the events. The NCF officer stressed the importance of volunteering saying that, “one of the greatest things you can do is give of your best and expect no returns.”
This year, the youth volunteer programme is proudly sponsored by the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited (ICBL), much to Pestaina’s delight. Chief Executive Officer of ICBL Geoff Scott noted that youth development and community service are key pillars of the company and they were excited to have the opportunity to make a significant contribution to what he called an “excellent developmental and character building programme”.
The programme provides these youngsters with on the job experience in areas from event production to administration, which she believes is extremely important to their development. It gives them a chance to learn from professionals and to network with skilled and connected individuals.
Pestaina stated to whom much is given, much is expected, and so the volunteers are assigned to assist with marketing, backstage management, house management, marshaling, hospitality, administrative duties and any other duties that may aid in the smooth running of events.
Many of the past volunteers have benefitted greatly from the programme, boosting their confidence, engendering integrity and empathy, and developing their cultural knowledge as well as many other sought after attributes.