Caritas Holds international volunteers day celebrations. By Robin Fernandez. PCP Report.

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KARACHI: January 9. A Catholic charity group has feted members of its volunteer force as part of its International Volunteers Day celebrations held earlier this week. Caritas-Karachi officials presented shields to eight men and women who were adjudged the charity's best volunteers. This is the first time that Caritas-Karachi has honoured its volunteers, though its chapter offices in other dioceses of Pakistan hold such programmes from time to time.

Some 200 volunteers, both active and auxiliary members, were invited to the awarding ceremony held in the conference hall of Christ the King seminary. Zia Awan, chairman of the Lawyers for Human Rights and Legal Assistance (LHRLA), was the chief guest of the function.

The programme opened with a short prayer conducted by Master Rehmat, a catechist. In his opening speech, Dominic Gill, executive secretary of Caritas-Karachi, announced that his organization would commemorate the services of volunteers every year from this function forth. Welcoming the contribution of volunteers to his organization's projects in various areas, Mr. Gill said that volunteers had energized the charity through their hard work and dedication.

Over the past five years there has been a five-fold increase in the number of volunteers. In 1998 there were a little more than 40 volunteers aiding the organization. Today, with the expansion in its fieldwork and projects, Caritas has attracted 200 or so volunteers. "Volunteer strength matches the level of the expansion," said a Caritas official, commenting on the five-fold increase in the number of volunteers. "They are indeed the backbone of our organization."
Later Zia Awan and Dominic Gill distributed shields among those nominated as best volunteers. Six men and two women were chosen for the award. The winners include Lateef Mahtab from Bhittaiabad, Mrs. Azra Aslam from Cattle Colony, Mrs. Violet Boota from Kala Pul, Nadeem Salamat from United Colony, George Samuel from Natha Khan Goth, Dominic Bhatti from Lilly Town, Morris Naveed from Essa Nagri and Emmanuel Ahmad from Golimar.

On average, Caritas officials say, an active volunteer spends about two hours of a workday either in the company of a project animator or other community workers. These two hours are reserved for community meetings and related services, they say. In the absence of the animator, the volunteers conduct meetings and organise people and activities, they add.

Earlier in the evening, the volunteers conducted two plays and sang Christmas carols as well as folk songs on stage. The theme of the first play was addiction and the Essa Nagri youth group that staged the play explored both the comical and serious consequences of substance abuse. The second play, performed by the Cattle Colony group of volunteers, dwelled at length on the feudal practices of local people and its devastating impact on society. Raheel Ayaz and Shahnaz Bhatti, the hosts for the evening, closed the programme with a vote of thanks to all the volunteers and other participants.

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