International Volunteer Day was recognized Dec. 5, highlighting the important contributions by volunteers in our communities and around the world. The special day was introduced in 1985 by United Nations Volunteers and is a key tool in the organization’s promoting of volunteerism as well as encouraging governments to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions toward the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (https://en.unesco.org/sdgs).
The 2019 edition of International Volunteer Day carries the theme “Volunteer for an inclusive future,” highlighting Sustainable Development Goal 10 — “Reduced Inequalities” — through volunteerism.
Olivier Adam, executive co-ordinator for United Nations Volunteers, said in his IVD message: “By empowering people to act, and by increasing interactions between groups, volunteering can promote recognition of the inherent value of all people regardless of gender, age, ethnic background, disability or sexuality. Volunteerism is universal and, when accessible to everyone, can become a powerful equalizer.”
The UNV website notes, “Every day, an estimated one billion volunteers make a difference to the people and communities where they live and work. They create social bonds and give a voice to marginalized and vulnerable groups. They are often the first to act in moments of crisis. They dedicate their time, skills and passion to make the world a better place.”
You don’t have to travel to another country to see the positive results of volunteerism. It’s strongly evident across Canada and here in our own community.
Statistics Canada information from 2013 shows the broad impact of volunteers, with 12.7 million Canadians, or 44 per cent of people aged 15 years and older, doing volunteer work. It amounted about 1.96 billion hours, a volume of work equivalent to about one million full-time jobs. Economically, that’s an impact of $12.8 billion.
Closer to home, volunteers locally contributed more than 625,000 hours, according to figures from Volunteer Lethbridge. That time, provided by more than 24,660 volunteers, had an economic value of $16.8 million.
Again drawing on data from Statistics Canada, 93 per cent of volunteers indicate they do it in order to make a difference in the community, and 78 per cent say it provides an opportunity to use their skills and experience.
Volunteer Canada touts “the many benefits of volunteering to building confidence, competence, connections and community.” That makes volunteerism a real win-win proposition because it benefits both the giver and receiver of the volunteer time.
If not for volunteers, many organizations that provide services throughout our communities and beyond would not be able to accomplish their work. And without their work, many people who depend on the services or assistance provided by those organizations would be worse off. As a result, our communities would be worse off.
Canadian curler Sherry Anderson hit the proverbial nail on the head when she noted, “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”
Indeed, volunteers in our communities and around the globe provide a priceless service that helps make the world a better place, because they help make life a little better for the people who benefit from volunteer efforts.