By Evelyne Guindon
Among the greatest rewards of being the CEO at Cuso International, is the opportunity to meet with many of the great global citizens as they prepare for their assignments after having made a choice to share their skills with others. Very soon, they will be part of a global movement as Cuso International volunteers. They are getting ready to support partners, to improve the lives of the people they work with and to contribute to achieving the Global Goals. It's part of our commitment to the world.
The Global Goals are our collective plan of action for the next 15 years, the way that we will come together for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.
There have been countless debates on how to fund the work needed to fulfill the vision and reach all the targets of the Global Goals. The goals, at times, seem daunting. While Official Development Assistance (ODA), domestic investment and foundation support will play a role, money is not the only resource available to the global community.
In fact, the SDG agenda recognizes that volunteerism is a valuable resource for implementation. In November, 2015, the UN General Assembly adopted the Resolution on "Integrating volunteering into peace and development: the plan of action for the next decade and beyond".
Volunteers are essential for achieving the Global Goals. Volunteering gives global citizens a tangible way to contribute to education, health, governance, sustainable livelihoods, security and peace, environment, gender equality and social inclusion. It provides opportunities for everyone to play an active and meaningful part in the international effort to reduce poverty and inequality.
It is especially exciting that today, many of our international volunteers are working with partners to strengthen national volunteer programs. In Colombia, Cuso International is working with the UAE Organizaciones Solidarias through the Ministry of Labour to strengthen the volunteer sector, by supporting the National Volunteering System.
We are also learning that volunteering is proving to be playing a key role in bringing about transformative change in other countries such as Myanmar. A recent study on urban volunteering in Myanmar found that volunteers are highly valued and respected among the general population. The research found volunteers engaged across all ages, genders and ethnicities, with young people having particularly high participation rates. Many people are driven by a strong sense of altruism and religious faith to give back to their communities and do so across a variety of sectors, including health and education.
International Volunteer Day, December 5, gives us an opportunity to celebrate all that volunteers do in the world. We're fortunate that the Government of Canada, through Global Affairs Canada, recognizes the importance of volunteers to achieving the Global Goals. Last year, through Canada's volunteer cooperation agencies, volunteers contributed more than $15.8 million worth of in-kind support to organizations around the world. And this contribution is multiplied over and over again by volunteers around the world: those travelling near and far to make their contribution and have impact. Thanks to volunteers, the Global Goals don't seem all that difficult to achieve.
Evelyne Guindon is the CEO of Cuso International
The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of CCIC or its members.
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Introduce your children to books that encourage compassion and generosity toward others. Try “The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss for its message about the environment, “The Legend of Bluebonnet” by Tomie De Paola for its focus on sacrificing for others, and “Something Beautiful” by Sharon Wyeth, which is about seeing beauty in the unlikeliest places. Biographies about inspiring figures (“Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” by Doreen Rappaport) can also spark important conversations on how they can pitch in.
A great way to get your family invested in volunteering is to use it as a way to explore their interests and talents. Are they into sports? Volunteer to coach a youth league or help them start a collection of unused gear to donate to a school or organization in need. Are they crazy about animals? Pitch in at a pet shelter or with an animal welfare organization. To foster an even deeper sense of togetherness, participate in activities that explore your family’s heritage, whether it’s volunteering at a museum or reading stories at your local community center.
What sparks excitement in a teenager may provoke boredom or confusion in your grade-school child. Try to turn younger children on to volunteering by starting with simple visit to a food bank or clothing drive where they can sort items. Alternatively, you can help them start an ongoing collection (glasses, old cell phones, etc.) to donate. For older children, activities that connect to their interests and skills will help them develop their talents, stay out of trouble and serve others.
It’s too easy to lose out on the real spirit of the holidays when you’re caught in a whirlwhind of materialism. How about finding a way to make your holiday about slowing down and spending time with your family? There are plenty of food banks, hospitals, homeless shelters and retirement homes that welcome volunteers on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. It’s a great way to establish a ritual of volunteering with your kids that could well extend through the rest of the year.
Even if your family can’t devote a whole day to volunteering, incorporate giving as a routine. Make service both a long-term commitment and an everyday occurrence. And the benefits are long-lasting: According to Tanisha Smith, a national director of volunteer services for Volunteers of America: "Two-thirds of youths who volunteer become active adults who volunteer."
We admit that it’s a hard sell to get your kid to sacrifice the allure of the traditional birthday party, but Volunteer Guide has some great pointers for making volunteering -- and fun! -- the main attraction. Encourage guests to donate a small sum to a charity of your family’s choice in lieu of an extravagant gift. And instead of useless party favors, kids can leave knowing that they’ve made the world a little brighter, whether they’ve written a letter to a sick kid or planted a tree.
Volunteering is a great opportunity to model good values and have important conversations with your kids. Make it meaningful by asking them questions before, during and after: What do they hope to get out of this day of service? What did they learn? Go to DoingGoodTogether.org for more great discussion-starters.
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