International Volunteer Day (IVD) is observed on 5th December every year to promote volunteerism, encourage governments to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions at local, national and international level. The campaign of IVD-2021 is “Volunteer now for our common future”. In Pakistan, volunteers are associated with different national and international organizations like Rescue 1122, Pakistan Red Crescent, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides Association, United Nations Volunteers (UNV) and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) Pakistan etc. Salute to all volunteers who contributed to make their communities more resilient against natural and human-induced disasters.
The leading Emergency Service of South Asia, commonly known as Rescue 1122, gives opportunity to all citizens to register themselves as Rescue Scout and become the members of Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) to assist in management of emergencies and promoting safety. This initiative was taken by Director General Rescue Service Dr. Rizwan Naseer to mobilize the power of humanity for developing disaster resilience and transforming the communities in Pakistan through an effective and pragmatic involvement of volunteers.
So far over 5000 CERTs have been established in all Union Councils of Punjab. Rescue Service organizes National Volunteer CERTs Challenge every year to assess and analyse disaster preparedness at local level and acknowledge volunteer teams.
The 5th National Volunteer CERTs Challenge is held at Emergency Services Academy Lahore, where 45 volunteer teams across country have been provided equal opportunity to exhibit disaster response skills in the competition. The winner Volunteer CERT of inter-UCs competition participated as a district representative volunteer team in the National Challenge. The designated team of evaluators from the Academy evaluated all teams on Community Action for Disaster Response Skills (CADRE) Skills. A big congratulations to all volunteer teams participating in National CERT Challenge and special appreciation for top three winning districts. Many congrats to their DEOs and RSOs and the teams who worked hard to achieve this recognition, but all teams performed well so those who didn’t get a position don’t have to be discouraged. Remember! Volunteer efforts never get wasted, as they develop trust among the society, develop strong linkages between groups, enhance harmony and limit the distance. I pay rich tribute to all volunteers for their continuous motivation and valuable contribution being responsible citizens of their community.
In order to train youth and make them socially responsible, the Government of Punjab took the initiative of Rescue Cadet Corps (RCC) in line with NCC. Keeping in view COVID-19, RESCUE CADET CORPS (RCC) APP has been launched to digitalize all volunteer data and provide them opportunity for online registration and training. This app would further help in coordination, deployment of volunteers in case of emergency and disaster. Through this app, volunteers can join RCC by registration as Rescue Scouts and get online training on five basic modules of Community Safety Training Course. These modules include first aid, fire safety, road safety, healthy and clean Pakistan and clean environment. The successful participants shall be engaged at the nearest Community Rescue Stations for hands on practice of life-saving skills and further deployment for safety-promotion activities. Furthermore, advanced trainings shall also be organized by the Rescue Service free of cost to enhance their preparedness, response and prevention skills.
All volunteers must know that Rescue Stations had been declared as Community Rescue Stations to provide CERTs an opportunity to utilize Rescue infrastructure across Punjab for working voluntarily with Emergency Services and to transform their communities. The Rescue Scouts are performing their duties in emergency response, awareness raising, imparting training and conducting safety surveys after getting essential emergency and disaster management trainings from certified rescue trainers. The purpose of all these activities is to provide a platform to Rescue Scouts at Government level and bridge the gap between government and communities as the district emergency officer of any district is the secretary of District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) and he can also present communities’ issues in District Emergency Board (DEB) meetings headed by the concerned deputy commissioner of the district.
In this way the issues raised by CERT never go unaddressed. We value our volunteers and highly acknowledge their contribution. During COVID-19, volunteers assisted the Rescue Service for around 50,000 Ration Packs’ distribution to deserving families and awareness-raising. We appreciate all of them. I would like to acknowledge the support of VSO Pakistan for capacity building of CERTs with kits, training of Rescue Officers on the “water, sanitation and hygiene” (WASH) program during COVID-19 and organizing CERTs challenge. The Boy Scouts and Girl Guides movements are being revived by Ch Muhammad Sarwar, Governor Punjab and Mrs Parveen Sarwar, President Punjab Girl Guides Association, whereas Pakistan Red Cross also has a huge network of volunteers linked with international network.
All such volunteer forums need to work together and put joint efforts to transform their respective communities for better living of our future generations. All professionals like doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers and experts of different fields must volunteer their services as professionals to create a visible difference for developing healthy, safe and resilient communities in Pakistan.