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Junior Minister's Speech- Launch Of 'Supporting Life's Journey', A Mentoring And Befriending Campaign 11th October 2010

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Thank You and Good afternoon everyone. I too am delighted to have this opportunity to participate in today’s launch event. I know it comes at the end of Mentoring and Befriending Week, during which a number of awareness raising events have taken place across the UK.

I believe that altruism is a value which we should all aspire to; the action of volunteering, doing something for the benefit of others, without necessarily receiving in return.

Indeed one might argue that, the concept of altruism does indeed provide us with a ‘return’ -that is - the knowledge of having helped and assisted others.

Volunteering can offer opportunities to develop skills, self-confidence and self-esteem. At a time when there are fewer jobs, people can offer their time, knowledge and skills in a worthwhile and rewarding way.

It can make a contribution to the economy and multiple benefits can be realised such as:
• the value of the work the volunteers actually do,
• the value of difference that this makes to people’s lives
•  the cost savings of interventions that reduce the number of visits to the doctor’s surgery, the hospital, the police station or any number of other public services; as well as
• the building of capacity through developing the skills of the volunteer and the person assisted in the process.

We also realise, however, that there are some people who don’t have the self-confidence to volunteer, who think perhaps that they don’t have the skills needed.  We know that, in particular, children and young people from less well-off areas are less likely to volunteer.
To this end we need to tackle the barriers these children and young people face – this poverty of aspiration.
We need to ensure that all our young people realise that their contribution is prized and understand that they have a role to play in supporting the charities and voluntary organisations that provide vital services within their local communities.
Today’s event will give us the opportunity to learn more about a number of local programmes. However, it equally offers us the opportunity to acknowledge and praise the work that is carried out by the Mentoring and Befriending Foundation,  local organisations such as Volunteer Now and the many volunteers throughout  Northern Ireland who give up so much of their spare time to assist others. 
Thank you to you all. Your work is very much appreciated, especially I suspect by those who you regularly assist.
I wish you well with your continuing work and indeed with your attempt later today to break a Guinness World record by engaging some 3,000 volunteers in a diverse and vibrant dance. Sadly diary commitments will prevent me from assisting you in your attempt! But we wish you good luck. Thanks again and good afternoon.

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