International Volunteer Day, which is this Saturday 5th December, is a global day where we celebrate volunteers and say thank you for their hard work. This year we need to go beyond that and recognise their invaluable contribution to society not just in Ireland but globally.
Over 1 million people in Ireland volunteer annually. And that figure doesn't include the countless informal volunteering that goes on across the country. It is not just the benefit of volunteering itself that is noteworthy but the values that volunteering can imbed within individuals, families, communities and society. At its most basic level, volunteering is about being engaged with your local community. It is an act of civic engagement and a true expression of active citizenship. Volunteering enables the world to develop and sustain safe, healthy, integrated and caring communities.
Speaking at the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals in September, the United Nations have once again stressed the value of volunteering for developed and developing countries. In a report published in advance of the launch, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said "as we seek to build capacities and to help the new agenda to take root, volunteerism can be another powerful and cross-cutting means of implementation. Volunteerism can help to expand and mobilise constituencies, and to engage people in national planning and implementation for the Sustainable Development Goals."
Helping those less fortunate, giving their time up to support others, changing the status quo and working in harmony with people from all walks of life are all qualities that volunteers posess. Volunteers are actors of change who change lives and who can change the world.