International Volunteer Day: Being a volunteer means being passionate about improving people’s lives

5 December, 2011
OCHA's work on the Libya Crisis Map has been recognized with a UN Online Volunteering Award: an "outstanding example of the impact citizens can have on peace and development through volunteering their skills and time over the Internet.”
OCHA's work on the Libya Crisis Map has been recognized with a UN Online Volunteering Award: an "outstanding example of the impact citizens can have on peace and development through volunteering their skills and time over the Internet.”

Every day, volunteers make an invaluable contribution to OCHA’s work helping people in crisis zones around the world. Today, their work is officially honoured and celebrated by the United Nations as part of International Volunteer Day.

This year marks an important milestone: the tenth anniversary of the International Year of Volunteers. Volunteerism is on the agenda in the UN General Assembly today and the first State of the World’s Volunteerism Report was launched at events around the world.

The report aims to enhance the recognition, facilitation, networking and promotion of volunteerism worldwide. It will also increase recognition of the critical role of United Nations Volunteers as an organization that sets standards in peace and development, as well as in volunteerism, in the United Nations system.

Volunteering in crises

United Nations Volunteers (UNVs) come from all over the world with different skills and backgrounds, but they have one thing in common; a passion to improve the lives of others.

Volunteering is a great way to get involved in the humanitarian community and reach out to people in need. In conflicts and disasters most relief operations depend heavily on the support of volunteers. They also help by getting their local communities involved and by sharing their knowledge, skills, expertise and ideas.

Katleen Maes is a Belgian national and one of many volunteers supporting OCHA’s humanitarian coordination and response activities in offices worldwide. She is working in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) with displaced families. “Being a volunteer means working with passion,” says the 34-year-old UN Volunteer. “It’s about keeping assistance and the empowerment of other people at the centre of everything you do.”

You can also become a virtual volunteer. Technology has made it easier to have a real impact on the lives of others from anywhere in the world. All you need is access to a computer.

During the Libya crisis, for example, OCHA joined forces with volunteers from the Standby Task Force (SBTF), an online network. SBTF went on to train online volunteers in crisis mapping, ensuring ongoing support throughout the crisis. The Libya Crisis Map highlighted live information relevant to relief efforts such as health needs, security threats and displacement.

Find out more about Online Volunteering:

http://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en/org/index.html

Find out more about the International Year of Volunteers:

http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org/

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