In Recognition of International Volunteer Day 2013

By Jeffrey D. Richardson
Executive Director of Serve DC 

Jeffrey D. Richardson. Photo by LC.

Jeffrey D. Richardson. Photo by LC.

While many of the stories featured on the 24-hour news cycle focus on the challenging and troubling events that are taking place in towns, cities, and provinces across the globe, the reality is that, every day, individuals on every continent and in every country are building stronger, healthier and sustainable communities through volunteerism. Volunteers are transforming our global community in fantastic and powerful ways.

Although these stories often go untold, today on International Day of Volunteerism I join the YWCA in celebrating and recognizing volunteerism in all its facets. I’d like to send a special tribute to the youth volunteers in global peace and sustainable human development, worldwide, that have taken up the charge of leveraging volunteerism as a direct action organizing strategy. People across the world are challenging oppressive power structures and institutions by creating pathways for change and empowerment through their volunteer efforts.

Volunteerism is not just a warm and fuzzy activity for individuals of “leisure” to make use of their unstructured time, or a way for those with wealth to give back. Volunteerism has become a method and strategy for individuals and groups to re-distribute resources, educate the oppressed, create economic opportunity, and transform cultural ideology.

Whether it is mentoring young men and women of color in urban America, training women in developing countries to establish co-ops to market their skills, empowering Haitian earthquake victims to rebuild their country, or facilitating dialogue about human rights across the globe; people freely choosing to leverage their time and talents to lead and organize change and transformation through volunteerism has become the direct action organizing strategy of our time.

So today, on International Day of Volunteerism, I salute all those who have taken up the charge to leverage volunteerism as a sustainable solution to meeting unmet community needs and transforming our world:

  • Thank you to the volunteers at the Manchester Cathedral in the United Kingdon who are leveraging volunteerism to create pathway’s to employment.
  • Thank you to volunteers with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth in Singapore who are strengthening Singapore and the region through arts, heritage, sports and youth.
  • Thank you to the thousands of AmeriCorps VISTA members working to bring individuals and communities out of poverty in the United States.
  • And thank you to YWCA volunteers who have dedicated their lives to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all!

Learn how you can volunteer domestically at www.serve.gov or abroad by visiting www.unv.org.

Jeffrey D. Richardson is the Executive Director of Serve DC – The Mayor’s Office on Volunteerism. He transitioned into this role after serving as Director of the District of Columbia’s Mayor’s Office of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. Previously, he served as the National Program Director for the Center for Progressive Leadership. Jeffrey is a graduate of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and The Howard University School of Social Work. Follow Jeffrey on Twitter at @JeffreyNDC

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