To receive a colour portrait of Queen Elizabeth II from Buckingham Palace is one thing but to receive a note from the British Monarch herself with her personal signature at the bottom, is indeed something unique and undoubtedly, this was how Vanuatu’s Director of Women’s Centre, Merilyn Tahi felt when the Queen advised her of her nomination for the Commonwealth’s 40th Point of Light Award which she received on March 28.

The message read, “In recognition of your exceptional service over 30 years campaigning for women’s rights and supporting thousands of victims of gender-based violence, you are presented with the Commonwealth’s 40th Point of Light Award on March 28th 2018”.

Initially Press and Public Affairs Officer of the British High Commission in Honiara, Solomon Islands, Betty Wasuka notified Merilyn Tahi of her nomination in a letter on March 22.

She wrote, “I am delighted to let you know that Her Majesty the Queen as Head of the Commonwealth would like to honour your inspiring voluntary work with a Commonwealth Point of Light Award for outstanding volunteers”.

“The Commonwealth Points of Light Award has been created to recognise outstanding volunteers that have delivered a significant impact on the lives of others, creating innovative approaches to social challenges and have inspired others to make positive change within and beyond their communities.

Wasuka explains that Points of Light began in America under President George H. W. Bush and today over 6,000 US Points of Light have been recognised. The scheme has the support of all living US Presidents. Since 2014 the UK Prime Minister has also been recognising a daily Point of Light from the UK, with almost 900 now recognised.

The British High Commission explains that Commonwealth Points of Light is a special series of awards recognising inspirational volunteers throughout the Commonwealth in the lead-up to the Commonwealth heads of Government Meeting in London in April 2018.

“One volunteer will be recognised from each of the Commonwealth countries in the 52 week days preceding the Heads of Government meeting”, Press and Public Affairs Officer Wasuka says.

“We are delighted to let you know that you’ll be the 40th Commonwealth Point of Light representing Vanuatu for your inspiring work campaigning for women’s right and supporting thousands of victims of gender-based violence. We hope that by shining a light on your volunteering, we will also inspire others to volunteer”.

The Director of Vanuatu Women’s Centre received her Award from the New Zealand High Commissioner in Port Vila this week.