Volunteerism – It’s International!

May 12, 2011

2001 was overshadowed by the tragic events of 9/11 – how many of us remember that 2001 was also the International Year of the Volunteer?  2011 is the 10th Anniversary of this historic event.  The International Year of the Volunteer was created by the United Nations General Assembly – and a resolution was passed to commemorate the 10 year anniversary.  What does this actually meant?  The project aims to promote the values of volunteering, recognize the value of volunteering, build and reinforce volunteering networks both nationally and globally, and help people tap their potential to make a real difference.

We had a lesson on International volunteerism closer to home.  I was honored to be one of 6 lucky MAVA presenters (Katie Bull, Heather Cox, Lee George, Mary Quirk and Barb Tiggemann) who spent a day teaching representatives from Afghanistan, Canada, Egypt, Finland, Ghana, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Latvia, Liberia, Republic of Montenegro, Nigeria, Palestinian Territories, People’s Republic of China, Slovak Republic and Zambia about our American form of volunteerism.  Participants received MAVA’s wonderful Volunteer Leadership Training series (VRL), normally spread over two days, in about 8 hours.  Not only do the above countries have systems similar to ours in place, but THEY could have been teaching the sessions we were conducting! Many have national offices of volunteerism. The Republic of Montenegro (do you even know where that is?) has a national office of volunteerism that recognizes volunteer work throughout the country and teaches leaders of volunteers on topics similar to our own VRL.

Group photo of International colleagues and MAVA representatives

My topic was volunteer recognition.  The opening exercise encourages participants to think about the types of recognition they have received in their life for outstanding work, whether it be volunteer or professional.  I expected there to be a wide range of the types of recognition people received, being international and all, but the reality was that participants all mentioned the same thing – recognition needed to be personal and shared with others, no matter where you were from.

The lesson for me in all of this is that the world, even our world of volunteerism, has gotten flat!  As always, there’s so much to learn, not only from our local colleagues, but our International colleagues too.  To learn more about the International Year of the volunteer visit http://www.worldvolunteerweb.org/.  Susan Ellis, a pioneer in so many areas, also has some great International resources.  Visit EnergizeInc.com for her outstanding list:  http://www.energizeinc.com/art/subj/intl.html

Terry Straub, Program Coordinator

University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners in Hennepin County