Jaewynn McKay: Salute our volunteers – they’ve earned it

Wednesday May 13, 2020 Written by Jaewynn McKay Published in Editorials
Puna volunteers picked up more than 465kg of rubbish in Tupapa alone. 20040709 Puna volunteers picked up more than 465kg of rubbish in Tupapa alone. 20040709

OPINION: People in Cook Islands are generous community people. It did not take the coronavirus pandemic to demonstrate that, it is something we already knew.

What the Cook Islands Covid-19 response is showing us though, is just how deep our community spirit is. How so many have been prepared to put others before themselves, to look out for the vulnerable, the elderly, the less advantaged.

Many of the people doing this important work are volunteers, like the helpers in the 10 puna, the Private Sector Taskforce helpers, the corporates, families, churches, service organisations, non-government organisations and individuals donating their goods, time, advice and services to help those in need.


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All of this voluntary work comes on top of one’s everyday commitments. Many people are not only working multiple jobs (although some may lost jobs or had their hours cut in recent weeks) in order to pay bills and provide for their whanau, but they also are committed to their children’s school and sports clubs, churches, youth groups and more.

Yet they still rise to the challenge when more is asked of them.

The coronavirus pandemic is placing major strains on every business, community, and family. Even though we have been lucky thus far here, for most (if not all) of us, the “novel coronavirus world” feels uncertain and scary.

I’ve heard our Prime Minister say Cook Islands punches above its weight on the world stage.

I reckon when it comes to serving and giving to our community, the people of Cook Islands punch well above their weight.

Being a volunteer means that you are offering something – something that is not required nor an obligation. Most of the time, to volunteer means that you are working side by side with others toward a common goal.

I’m proud to live in a country, and on an island where a great number of people are committed to working side by side in the community they live in. Helping others survive and in times to come prosper; committed to helping the less fortunate and vulnerable, committed to helping other volunteers in the work they do.

I am proud to also live in a community committed to serving and caring for our neighbours, our fellow citizens, our tamariki.

I see advertisements appearing for annual general meetings of organisations, clubs, associations, sporting bodies – many of them are run by dedicated volunteers.

In recent times we have not had a lot to celebrate, and we live with a lot of uncertainty. Though it may be hard right now to imagine, at some point in time the pandemic will subside and slowly the world will get back to a “new” normal.

Hopefully it will be less crazy than before – and our lives as we had them will also (mostly) come back to us.

Until that time, spare a thought for the plethora of volunteers in our community, and salute them when you can – they have earned it.

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