Sports Minister Edwin Poots, MLA and Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie, MLA opened a Volunteering@2012 Information Seminar on Friday 22 February 2008.

Speaking at the event in Parliament Buildings, Minister Poots said: “Today’s event is providing an opportunity to voluntary and community sectors to hear first hand what the opportunities are for volunteering in London and in particular Northern Ireland’s plans for volunteering.

“The 2012 games have provided a unique opportunity for Northern Ireland to create and leave a valuable and lasting legacy. Northern Ireland must rise to the challenge and play its part in making the Games the best the world has ever seen and volunteers are key to this success.

The Minister continued: “Sports organisations and clubs in Northern Ireland have over 37,000 volunteers involved in their day to day running. I congratulate all those involved in volunteering, without this support and participation, a high percentage of these clubs could not operate. I hope everyone will be inspired today to work with their relevant sectors to ensure that Northern Ireland reaps the benefits that the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games have to offer. My Department is co-ordinating this work through the development of the NI Olympic Strategy which focuses on volunteering, culture, business, tourism, education and skills, health and very clearly sport. Underpinning each of these is the legacy that is created.

Also speaking at the event, Minister Ritchie said: “Volunteering has a profound effect on us, our children, our families and friends. It is a cornerstone of our society. It is the lifeblood of our communities and often a lifeline to the vulnerable.

My department, the Department for Social Development, has lead responsibility for volunteering in Northern Ireland. There are over 280,000 formal volunteers and over 470,000 informal volunteers. Formal volunteers alone make an economic contribution estimated to be worth over £500 million each year. My Department already provides funding to the Volunteer Development Agency and to a network of volunteer centres in Northern Ireland.

I am taking forward the development of the first ever Volunteering Strategy for Northern Ireland and this will set out a vision for volunteering for Northern Ireland. I expect to consult widely on the strategy this autumn. I like this thought from Anne Frank who said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

The 2012 Games is our opportunity to make a real and meaningful difference to athletes from across the world, fellow volunteers from across the UK and the people of Northern Ireland. My best wishes are with everyone involved in making the 2012 Games an outstanding success.”

For further information on the event please contact DCAL Press Office on T: 028 9025 8901 or E: press.office@dcalni.gov.uk

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