Volunteering: An act of service worth celebrating
2 December 2019 at 7:45 am
This Thursday is International Volunteer Day. It provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and contributions being made by hundreds of Australians currently volunteering overseas, writes Zoë Mander-Jones, program director at the Australian Volunteers Program.
International volunteers share a common motivation to give of themselves to help communities grow stronger. Being an international volunteer is not easy: it can be very challenging work but it also can bring great rewards.
Every week skilled Australians head overseas as volunteers, to work alongside colleagues in other countries, helping them achieve their own development objectives.
These Australians take time away from their everyday lives, far away from family and friends, and invest this time in building strong and respectful relationships with colleagues in another country, with the aim of helping these colleagues create positive change in their community.
Relationships are key to this work. Relationships that are built on a sense of equity and respect. These relationships provide volunteers with an important way into understanding their new homes and workplaces, and help volunteers to navigate the challenges of volunteering in developing countries. They also frequently lead to lifelong friendships.
We know that when a volunteer fosters a relationship built on shared trust they can be a more genuinely effective partner and support development that is truly locally-led.
This coming 5 December, I invite you to take a moment to celebrate the Australian volunteers striving to support positive change in our region.
International Volunteer Day provides an opportunity to reflect on the achievements and contributions being made by hundreds of Australians currently volunteering overseas, as well as the thousands of Australians who have volunteered overseas in the past 60 years.
The impact volunteering has had on thousands of Australians is also worth highlighting. Again and again, I see how international volunteering can nurture empathy in fellow Australians.
Being a skilled international volunteer is an incredible opportunity to live in another country, culture and community. It provides a chance for Australians from all walks of life to step, with humility and equity, into someone else’s shoes and see the world through someone else’s eyes.
Being a skilled international volunteer has the power to remind us of our shared humanity. We are not all alike, but we are all equal. And there is value, richness and strength in our diversity.
In many ways, international volunteering is an act of global citizenship.
Recognising this value of volunteering is particularly relevant on this International Volunteer Day 2019, which the United Nations is celebrating with the theme of Inclusive Development.
This theme is particularly fitting for international volunteering because, at its heart, volunteering offers a powerful opportunity for everyday Australians to help amplify the voices of those often left unheard. It can be challenging, but it can also be an amazing, life-changing experience.
I invite you to discover some of these stories on the Australian Volunteers Program website.