December 8, 2013

A Celebration of Volunteering

Posted in Celebrations, Valuing Volunteers, volunteer experience tagged , , at 3:37 am by Sue Hine


International Volunteer Day (IVD) is the highlight of the week that was, that one day of the year set aside for giving thanks, and to celebrate all the work, the accomplishments, the contributions of volunteers to our communities, large and small.  There were gatherings all around New Zealand to acknowledge this day, to make the speeches and do the presentations – and for volunteers to take pride in being appreciated.

There were many words of praise tendered to volunteers.  The most frequently used adjective was ‘vital’, sometimes further qualified with ‘absolutely’.  Here’s a summary of words and phrases that appeared in the tributes via news media and online sources:

Recognising: Wonderful job; Valuable contribution

Acknowledging:  Efforts and contributions; Giving time; Dedication

Service:  To the community; Making a difference; Backbone of local community activities; “Where would we be without you?”

Helping Out:  Lending a Hand forms a large part of our national identity

Government Support:  Commitment to supporting volunteers; Working towards strategic and long-term investment in local communities

Impact:  Provision of comprehensive support; Achieving more with limited resources; Break down barriers and provide needed networks; Achievements, at local national and international levels

I am pleased to read here fewer benign platitudes, and more down-to-earth recognition than in previous years.  There was however, a more muted display of public acknowledgement by national organisations via press releases.   I’m sure this does not mean IVD was not observed through in-house communication, but I have started to ask if IVD is at risk of becoming just another date on the calendar among all the other United Nations designated Days.

This is where I pick up on a more profound meaning and understanding of IVD.  Its full title is International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, gazetted by United Nations in 1985. Here are some interpretations of this title:

  • International Volunteer Day (IVD) offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions – at local, national and international levels.
  • IVD is about telling the world what volunteers and volunteer-involving organizations achieve for peace and sustainable development.
  • IVD is an international observance day to celebrate the power and potential of volunteerism. 
  • IVD gives volunteers a chance to work together on projects and campaigns promoting their contributions to economic and social development at local, national and international levels.
  • IVD is an opportunity for volunteers, and volunteer organisations, to raise awareness of, and gain understanding for, the contribution they make to their communities.

What interests me in these statements is the reference to international volunteering, and by extension, to Millenium Development goals (MDGs).  United Nations runs its own volunteer programme; Governments support and promote volunteering overseas for young people; many, many global aid agencies also engage volunteers.   Every day thousands of people are volunteering, online or on-site, contributing to peace and development and working to achieve the MDGs. As Jayne Cravens argues, these volunteers deserve their own day.

Only a few clicks are needed to find the UN page and the official IVD Site.  And the banner indicating the theme for 2013 is YOUNG.GLOBAL.ACTIVE.


So while we celebrate and recognize volunteerism in all its facets in our local communities we also pay special tribute to the contribution of youth volunteers in global peace and sustainable human development.  Young people can and do act as the agents of change in their communities.

I am reminded again of that slogan “Think global, act local”.  Thinking globally shows me how volunteering is so much bigger than my small corner of the world, and how and why my volunteer actions count.


This post is the last for another year.  Happy Holidays, and the best of volunteering to all. Start-up for 2014 will be late January.

1 Comment »

  1. Happy Holidays to you Sue! Looking forward to more thought-provoking posts on volunteerism!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: