Your Excellency, the Deputy Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the EU, Petra Vargova
Dear President of the CEV, Christina Rigman
Honorable members of the Jury
Dear delegation members of Kosice, Padova and Berlin
Ladies and gentlemen
It is with great pleasure and a sense of humility that I address tonight’s ceremony.
On behalf of Strovolos Municipality, I wish to stress that having qualified as one of the two candidates for the title of the European Volunteering Capital 2021, we are deeply honoured by the endorsement and grateful for the opportunity to present our case.
Strovolos is the first municipality in Cyprus to reach this stage and this has raised unprecedented interest and support, both locally, as well as nationally.
I feel obliged to mention that our efforts were embraced and endorsed by the Presidency of the Republic and the Council of Ministers, the Commissioner of Volunteerism and Non-Governmental Organizations, the Commissioner for the Environment, other municipalities, the local media, as well as several private sponsors.
Located in the heart of the city of Nicosia, Strovolos is the second largest municipality in Cyprus.
It has a population of over 70.000 inhabitants, consisting mostly of Cypriot citizens but also a growing number of other EU and third country citizens, creating a lively ‘amalgamation’ of different cultures.
Cyprus itself is a small Republic and one that has suffered a great deal through its history.
It has been able to survive and prosper because of its long-standing communal traditions that have sustained a deep culture of solidarity that small communities are able to attain.
Volunteerism comes naturally to places like Cyprus.
It comes naturally to the municipality and citizens of Strovolos.
But, times change and challenges emerge.
They demand strategic planning, better organization, structures and institutions, collective efforts, targeted communication, new knowledge and experiences.
We have embraced this avenue and our presence here is not only evidence of this but part of our vision to do and offer more.
Strovolos is a small community and we remain true to our traditions.
Thus, we have always adopted a bottom-up approach. We ensure that the real needs on the ground are taken into consideration. We ensure, that our plans and actions are effective, responding to the needs of the people.
Strovolos and its citizens have always fostered a culture of respect and reciprocity, a culture of giving and sharing.
One in five of our citizens are volunteers. Our task to provide incentives for volunteers to continue enriching their work and improving our community, finds no obstacles.
From the Volunteers’ Club at a local Secondary School raising the small amount of 7.500 euros, used for the purchase of a swing for children with mobility difficulties, to the large-scale inclusion project launched seven years ago entitled “Colorful Societies” that offers free services to third country nationals, volunteerism is in our blood and in our culture.
Our Colorful Societies project co-funded by the European Integration Fund has sought the active and productive inclusion of third country nationals in our community.
It has managed to transform a difficult and delicate challenge, into a productive, positive and inclusive reality.
It is a core priority to facilitate the effective integration of vulnerable groups, including refugees, by implementing initiatives that promote their wellbeing and foster a culture of respect for human rights.
On a more institutional level and in our effort to promote sustainable quality volunteering and to ensure a safe and supportive environment for volunteers the Municipality established the “Office for Volunteerism and Active Citizenship – OVAC”.
OVAC has signed a bilateral cooperation agreement with the National Commissioner for Volunteerism Mr Yiannis Yiannaki, whom I want to personally thank for his presence here tonight and for his continuous support.
By following the guiding policy tools prepared by the Commissioner and in compliance with PAVE, OVAC aims at improving management, coordination and support of volunteer initiatives. It recruits volunteer citizens, provides appropriate training and certifies them to use their skills for the benefit of the community.
As I mentioned earlier one out of five citizens in our municipality is an active volunteer, participating either in OVAC’s initiatives or in broader volunteer groups.
To foster a culture of participation and to enable volunteers to maximize their contribution, Strovolos and OVAC ensure that all registered volunteers and all those interested in joining, are well informed about their rights, as well as the values and objectives of volunteering.
Additionally, to guarantee the best enabling environment for our volunteers, the municipality adopted three political documents by the National Commissioner for Volunteerism and NGOs:
a) The Charter of the Active Citizenship and Active Citizen
b) The Report “The Organized Civil Society in Cyprus” and
c) The Declaration for the “Rights and Responsibilities of Volunteers”.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Volunteerism is like a seed…
If nurtured it blossoms…
Volunteerism in Strovolos is deeply rooted
and is always in fruition.
For Strovolos, becoming the European Volunteering Capital 2021, would serve as a powerful platform from where we shall confirm our commitment to the cause of volunteerism.
A platform to share our best practices within Europe, learn from the vast experience of our partners and expand our capacity to deliver.
For Strovolos, becoming the European Volunteering Capital 2021, will allow us to restate and reinforce our common European values and principles.
Above all, it will improve and strengthen our collective capacity to develop the appropriate solutions in order to respond to the multitude of challenges ahead, in the way that authentic volunteers from our part of the world have always done.
Mayor of Strovolos