This article celebrates International Volunteer Day, 5 December 2014.
I have devoted a solid two years of my life to working without pay. Probably a lot more. This is a fraction of what other dedicated folks have done. Every day, millions of people around the world volunteer their time, energy and expertise to various causes to make our planet a better place. They do this with programs at work, in their community or simply as individuals. Today, International Volunteer Day celebrates those people whose generous actions help others throughout the year.
I’m a journalist and communications advisor and my experience includes going to Ethiopia to chronicle the stories of Volunteer Services Overseas (VSO) and Canadian University Services Overseas (CUSO) participants. I also spent a year in Swaziland as a communications officer with Crossroads International partner Swaziland Action Group Against Abuse, and a year in Vietnam helping to build staff capacity at community colleges as part of World University Services of Canada’s Uniterra program.
I did it because it was time to give back. I have lived a blessed and abundant life while many others have not. I gave the idea of volunteering a lot of thought over the years but did nothing. Then I stumbled upon this quotation from Bishop Desmond Tutu: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” Even a small effort counts in the battle to right wrongs and build capacity so instead of feeling helpless, I decided to get off my behind and share my expertise.
Volunteering can take place overseas or in your own backyard. It can be for people or the environment, for disadvantaged youth or the elderly. In takes place in a multitude of ways. Just this weekend on a little outing I met a young woman who has traveled the world helping out at animal refuges. Another woman worked to monitor and evaluate instances of child labour. A few people in the group worked on water and sanitation projects. One young man told me he shares his gift of music with orphans.
International Volunteer Day was established by the United Nations in 1985. Since then, governments, the UN system and civil society organizations have successfully joined volunteers around the world to celebrate the day.
In New York, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme is gathering a group of volunteers, corporate volunteering actors, volunteer-involving organizations, and other stakeholders to highlight corporate volunteering. Focusing on the recognition and celebration of corporate citizens’ participation, the event will launch IMPACT 2030, a global collaboration between the United Nations and the private sector. The campaign was created to mobilize corporate volunteers to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
IMPACT 2030 will promote dialogue and facilitate action among leaders through the voluntary efforts of employees. It will also showcase actions of partners across sectors and celebrate the dedication of employees around the globe who address social and environmental issues. The campaign includes a variety of volunteer-involving organizations and other stakeholders (member states, UN partners, and corporate volunteer actors) and will promote awareness of the Sustainable Development Goals to the business community.
Corporate volunteering has great potential to address development challenges. More that 90 per cent of Fortune 500 companies have formal employee volunteering and giving programs. Corporate volunteering can take many forms within an organization including individual employee efforts, as part of organized programs, or in partnership with non-governmental organizations and other civil society actors.
On December 5th corporate, community and independent volunteer projects are all being celebrated. By pitching in, we can make our planet a healthy, equitable, positive place to live. Sign up to volunteer today. Every little bit counts.
For more, visit the Volunteer Actions Count website.