By Cheryl Mahoney
Have you ever thought about traveling thousands of miles from your home? Have you thought about doing it because you want to help someone? To change the world? To make a difference? If so, then you’ve thought about voluntourism, or international volunteering. And if you’ve already volunteered internationally–then you probably know how amazing an experience it can be.
Whether you’ve volunteered internationally before or are considering it or maybe haven’t even encountered the idea, this Saturday is a perfect time to do some thinking on the subject. This Saturday, December 5th, is International Volunteer Day.
International Volunteer Day was established in 1985 by the United Nations General Assembly, making it truly an international day. You can find out more at the United Nations Volunteers‘ site, or by visiting the World Volunteer Web.
The big campaign of the day this year is Volunteering for our Planet, an initiative of the UN Worldwide Campaign on Climate Change. The UN Volunteers are looking to gather up a count of registered volunteering hours on environmental issues, in order to send a message to the delegates meeting at the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. The timing is convenient, because the Copenhagen Conference starts December 7th. I don’t know how the delegates will feel, but I’m already impressed. Right now, the UN Volunteers are listing over 860,000 registered volunteer hours, all of which occurred in the last six months. That’s more than 36,000 days, or 1,100 months, or 98 years. So that’s almost a century’s worth of volunteering time put in towards protecting the environment. Wow!
But that doesn’t mean, of course, that the job is done–far from it. In fact, I recently watched a powerful video about the effects of climate change in Bangladesh, bringing a human face to the crisis. Be warned–this might break your heart. And it shows that we all need to take action.
International Volunteer Day is still almost a week away. You might not have time to plan a trip that will take you thousands of miles from home, but I bet you can still find another way to help–for the environment, or for whatever other cause tugs at your heart.