What is International Volunteers Day?
International Volunteers Day (IVD), occurring on the 5th December, is an international awareness day created by the United Nations in 1985, to celebrate the importance of volunteers and their work, and to encourage governments around the world to support volunteerism. The theme of this year’s IVD is “Together We Can Through Volunteering”. This year’s theme is designed as a way of thanking and recognising the millions of extra people who have been on the frontline during the pandemic, providing crucial medical and community actions. Alongside this, there has been a mass realisation in the U.K. that people have been appreciating nature and spending more time outdoors leading to more people being interested in volunteering in nature.
~ Did you know? The hours devoted to volunteering around the world is equivalent to an astonishing 109 million full-time workers! ~
💬As a young person myself, what have my experiences been like? 💬
I would describe myself as a serial volunteer, using a lot of my free time volunteering in the environmental, conservation or animal welfare charity sectors. There are several reasons that led me to volunteer but one of the main ones was to meet like-minded people, especially as I had only moved to London in the middle of 2019. Moving to London can be daunting, not least overwhelming, but I found that volunteering really helped me settle and find myself a purpose, as well as make friends.
One of the other reasons was to gain experience in the sectors in which I wanted to work in. Despite having a relevant degree, the conservation sector is highly competitive – especially for the entry-level positions, which has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Despite this, I have found that volunteering has given me the opportunity to gain skills in so many areas including practical conservation, communications and volunteer management. In addition to this, I have found volunteering to be great for my mental health and confidence with studies showing volunteering decreases stress, boosts your immune system and increases your overall life satisfaction (1).
However, I have met people that struggle to fit volunteering alongside their full-time jobs, and they aren’t alone; a recent survey showed that work commitments were the number one barrier (49% of people) for people not taking part in formal volunteering (2). I was fortunate at the time that I worked in a flexible role where I was able to swap shifts allowing me to work and volunteer at the same time. However, if you’re not able to be as flexible as this, many volunteering opportunities are now giving more support to help remove potential barriers to involvement, including:
- Paying for out-of-pocket expenses (such as travel/lunch)
- Providing training and mentorship
- Offering a variety of roles for all skill levels