Today’s post comes from Gared Jones, Points of Light‘s Vice President of Global Service. International Volunteer Day is Celebrated on December 5th.
I recently joined Points of Light Institute to head up its international efforts in service and volunteering. While the organization has always played a role within the global service community, there are few times more exciting than now to be a part of this work.
The energy coming from the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Peace Corps, the broad-based support growing around the ServiceWorld Declaration, the preparations taking place to commemorate 2011 as the International Year of the Volunteer +10, the White House’s prioritization of service as a solution, and the emergence of myriad innovative service leadership models ranging from IBM’s Corporate Service Corps to HandsOn Manila’s Volunteer Sherpas to Atlas Corps’ international fellows are all focusing attention on citizen-led social change like never before.
Imagine the privilege of a job in which on one evening you could speak with the head of an international affiliate in Korea to learn more about the 15,000 volunteer leaders they had mobilized and trained over the past year, and the next day, to plan with Nike how they might enable employees in their retail outlets around the world to impact their communities through sports and volunteering, and the following, to design a meeting for State Department officials and multilateral organization leaders who wish to invest in innovative, emerging models for building an international network of service leaders.
While this Sunday is officially International Volunteer Day and set apart to recognize the impact of volunteers on their communities around the world, each day for me now seems like International Volunteer Day.
However, it was my own family’s recent participation in Family Volunteer Day on the weekend before Thanksgiving that moved me to truly appreciate what International Volunteer Day is all about.
My wife, twenty-month old daughter, and I woke up at 5:30 a.m. and headed into the dark and cold to a homeless breakfast at our church. When we arrived, the hall was filled with music and nearly three hundred folks, mostly men, seated around tables.
With my daughter in my wife’s arms holding a stack of cups, the two of them circulated the room greeting folks and pouring coffee. I joined a group of students from a local high school to serve plates of eggs and grits.
We had conversations with folks living in completely different worlds from our own. We shared laughter and fellowship and a meal. We helped out.
What is the meaning of International Volunteer Day?
For me it is to step into a less familiar world, to be received with grace simply for showing up, and to give what’s most essential to who we are: our hearts, our effort, and our smiles.
It is also to recognize that efforts like ours–and ones far more profound–are happening every day and everywhere around the world.
What’s the opportunity in International Volunteer Day for you?
Perhaps it is to think about an issue around which you are passionate – poverty, hunger, homelessness, education, the environment – and to find an opportunity and time to “show up.”
And if you want company, perhaps your opportunity is to encourage your family or a few friends to join you.
Perhaps, if you wish to make an impact in a “farther off” land, it is to seek out one of the many service-abroad offerings from organizations like Cross-Cultural Solutions, IndiCorps, or HandsOn Manila, and to go on an overseas service adventure.
Or, simply, to declare your support for the idea and those who are doing it by signing the ServiceWorld Declaration.
Imagine the privilege to be a part of something like this!