Today marks the tenth anniversary of International Year of Volunteers (IYV+10), while on the other hand it also the date which celebrates the International Volunteer Day (IYD).
The United Nations (UN) annually observes the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development on 5th December.
The day, which is also known as International Volunteer Day (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…
Each year UN General Assembly invites governments to observe the International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development on December 5. As a result of the resolution from December 17, 1985, governments, the UN, and civil society organizations work together with volunteers around the world to celebrate the Day on December 5 each year.
In 2001, the International Year of Volunteers, the Assembly adopted a set of recommendations on ways that governments and the UN could support volunteering and asked that they be widely disseminated.
The International Year of Volunteers aimed to stimulate national and international policy debate around, and to advocate for, recognizing, facilitating, networking and promoting voluntary action. The year led to a much better appreciation of the power of volunteerism in its many forms and the ways to support it.
This article is a result of compilation of various United Nations literatures on volunteerism including State of the World’s Volunteerism report of 2011.
This day hopes to heighten people’s and governments’ awareness of the voluntary contributions. It also focuses on stimulating people to offer their services as volunteers, both at home and abroad.
Over the years, governments, businesses, nonprofit organizations, and individuals contribute the International Volunteer Day through various activities including: Voluntary community projects; Parades, marches, or rallies; Award ceremonies for volunteers who made significant contributions to their communities; “Time donation” campaigns that involve people pledging hours of voluntary service to specific projects; Companies launching voluntary programs as part of their corporate responsibility; Volunteer competitions; and many other activities.
Activities and events for the day help promote the impact of volunteering and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, via volunteering to: Help eradicate poverty; Achieve universal primary education; Promote gender equality and empower women; Reduce child mortality and to improve maternal health; Reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other major diseases; Help ensure environmental sustainability.
Many people participate in many of these events through the World Volunteer Web, which the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) operates in partnership with various organizations.
International Volunteer Day is a global observance and not a public holiday. Some organizations, businesses and communities may take the time to contribute to the day through activities mentioned earlier in this article.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Tanzania through its chapter known as United Nations Volunteers (UNV) usually organizes various activities and mass mobilization campaigns to appeal to the general public to observe this day by doing various social and economic development activities through volunteerism in order to support community development.
According to the information released by the UNV Programme officer in Tanzania, Stella Karegyesa, for this year’ celebrations, UNV Tanzania has prepared and mobilized a number of activities including essay competition for Tanzanian nationals aged 15 to 35, who have had an opportunity of volunteering at least once in their lives.
The essay competition whose title was: “The Contribution of volunteerism to the socio-economic development of Tanzania” required essay writers to present their arguments and points basing on their own volunteerism experience and stories. The essays have been collected and marked and winners will be awarded today as part of peak of these celebrations.
Furthermore, Ms Karegyesa informed me that another important event today will be launching of the State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR).
This report which is the first UN report ever on volunteerism and is commissioned by the UNV programme, seeks to draw attention to the state of the world volunteerism by researching different definitions of volunteerism and documents the impact of volunteerism on peace and development around the world as far as feasible.
SWVR also attempts to demonstrate that volunteerism is a global phenomenon characterized by commonalities as well as by differences reflecting local, social, economic, gender, religious and global factors.
Above all, it tries to raise awareness and recognition of volunteerism and gain widespread support in order to fully realize and harness the potential and power of volunteerism for transformation change and sustainable peace and development.
The activities for this year’s celebrations will take place at UVIKIUTA centre, at Chamazi, in Temeke District, some few Kilometers from Dar es Salaam city centre. There will be a number of activities including plenary discussion of the report whereby I will be one of the panelists during the discussion of and the launch of the report.
Volunteerism occurs in every society in the world. Since time immemorial, in our Tanzania societies people especially in rural areas at various times have devoted their times to support other needy people such as the sick, disabled, poor, orphans, during weddings and funerals, when disasters strike, during farming as well as harvesting.
These people did not devote their time to support others expecting to obtain material wealth in return but they did so due to recognition of the importance of non-material attainments to the well-being of individuals and the entire society. Material improvements such as health, education and decent work remain essential; but also participation, empowerment and active citizenship is very vital.
Development is about expanding the choices available to people so that they may lead lives that they value. Economic growth is only one means of increasing people’s choices. Volunteerism becomes a very powerful expression of all these, where people can take control of their lives and make difference to themselves and to those around them.
There are a number of reasons why people engage or should engage in volunteerism. The UN State of the World’s Volunteerism Report (SWVR) highlights that one of the reason is to help to eliminate poverty and to improve basic health and education, to provide a safe water supply and adequate sanitation, to tackle environmental issues and climate change, to reduce the risk of disasters, and to combat social exclusion and violent conflicts.
Through volunteerism people can engage in the life of the communities and societies. In doing so, they acquire a sense of belonging and inclusion and they are able to influence the direction of their lives.
As volunteers the income poor realize their assets, which include knowledge, skills and social networks, for the benefit of themselves, their families and their communities. Volunteerism strengthens the capacity of the most vulnerable to achieve secure livelihoods and enhance their physical, economic, spiritual and social well-being.
Volunteerism promotes the civic values and social cohesion which mitigate violent conflict at all stages and that it even fosters reconciliation in post-conflict situations. It supports to build trust and reduce existing social tensions.
Volunteering can help fresh graduates to build their working skills as well as social capital. According to Wikipedia, the social capital generated by volunteering plays a key role in economic regeneration by widening social networks needed by fresh graduates. It is possible that you will be able to obtain information on job opportunities through social networks or the organisation you are volunteering.
I have personal experience in this. I completed my undergraduate studies in 2001, and I could not obtain any job for about a year. However, during this time I decided to volunteer with a youth NGO. Through this I managed to obtain a lot of information on job opportunities, including a job offer with an international NGO.
Since then I have devoted my time and resources to utilise my skills and knowledge to help others. It has been very rewarding in terms of building social capital, community integration as well as enhancing my professional development.
International Volunteer Day is a chance for individual volunteers, communities and organisations to promote their contributions to development at the local, national and international levels.
By combining UN support with a grassroots mandate, International Volunteer Day is a unique opportunity for people and volunteer-involving organisations to work with government agencies, non-profit institutions, community groups, academia and the private sector.
I agree with Flavia Pansieri, the Executive Coordinator of UNV Headquarters, who argues that volunteerism is not a wholly panacea to the problems of the world today.
It is, however, an essential component of any strategy that recognizes that progress cannot be measured solely in terms of economic return and that individuals are not motivated by self-interest alone but also by their deep held values and beliefs.
I encourage you to make plans to join, mobilise or set up a group of people or friends to find some activities which need your time and resources as volunteers within your street and communities. Volunteering matters: plat your part and light up the world!
The writer: Masozi David Nyirenda is a Specialist in Education Management, Economics of Education and Policy Studies. He is reached through 0754304181 or firstname.lastname@example.org