From the global celebration to our little corner of the South Pacific, today we recognise International Volunteer Day (IVD2018) along with a billion other volunteers around the world.
In a world that feels increasingly disconnected volunteering is our connector. Today we share and connect with a billion others that do more than they have to for a cause they believe in.
Together we build community
Volunteering is our connector. The scale of volunteer mobilisation around the world is literally mind-blowing. Millions of people can connect through volunteering from the remotest places in the world to the biggest cities. Digitisation enabled 17 million volunteers around the world join together to clean up our environment through Let’s do it.
We all chip away in our little ways knowing that we are joined by so many others who share our values. And we don’t do this alone. Lots of us are supported by organisations, whānau, iwi, volunteer leaders and local volunteer centres. Others of us self-organise. Many of us don’t talk about what we do as volunteering in communities where relationships and manaakitanga are strong. And together we build community.
But the most powerful thing about volunteering is that we can choose not to do it. We can choose how to do it and where to do it. This is where local volunteer centres build community.
Something said at the recent global conference on volunteering held by IAVE has stuck with me. Dhananjayan Sriskandarajah from CIVICUS said:
“We have to protect volunteering from being co-opted by governments for cheap labour and from being co-opted by nonprofits as an extension of their organisation. Volunteer action is a good in itself”. “This needs to be the century of the citizen. We need to reimagine democracy.”
That’s what volunteering is. It’s the opportunity to take part, to build community and a sign of a thriving democracy.
We should feel really proud that over a million of us in Aotearoa volunteer. And we have to be vigilant in removing barriers to volunteering, recognising the different contributions of our diverse community of volunteers and responding to trends in how people want to engage.
We can start by changing our approach from ‘how do you fit with us?’ to ‘how would you like to contribute in our community?’ as Jemilah Mahmood from Red Cross International challenged us to do at the global volunteering conference.
- Katie Bruce. Chief Executive at Volunteering New Zealand.