International Volunteers Day: Embracing Youth Power


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In the tapestry of global progress, young changemakers emerge as vibrant threads weaving the fabric of sustainable development. As we commemorate International Volunteers Day 2023, let us take a moment to celebrate the passion and dedication of young individuals who are defying odds in communities to steer our world towards positive transformation.

Volunteering: In the beginning

The concept of volunteering has deep historical roots, engrained in the very foundations of human society. Dating back to ancient civilizations, individuals willingly offered their time and skills to benefit their communities. From religious institutions to charitable organizations, the spirit of volunteerism has been a driving force for societal welfare.

The idea of organized volunteerism gained momentum during the 19th century, driven in part by social and economic changes brought about by the industrial revolution. The rise of philanthropic movements and the establishment of charitable organizations marked a shift towards more structured and purpose-driven volunteer efforts. Visionaries like Florence Nightingale, who pioneered modern nursing through volunteer work during the Crimean War, exemplified the transformative power of volunteerism in addressing societal challenges.

Fast forward to the modern era, volunteering has evolved into a global phenomenon, with the United Nations recognizing its pivotal role in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 19 85, the UN general Assembly adopted December 5 which is part of Resolution A/RES/40/212 as International Volunteers Day. This has provided opportunity for governments, organizations, individuals and all people around the world to set and achieve goals and recognize the effort of volunteers from every work of life.

Youth and Volunteering: bracing the odds for good
The young adult volunteer welcomes a young child volunteer with a high five and a smile.

In the 21st century, the spotlight on volunteering has shifted to the youth, who have assumed a more strategic responsibility and become torchbearers of transformative changes. The passion and commitment exhibited by young volunteers contributing to sustainable development has been awe-inspiring. In every corner of the world, young people are confronting challenges head-on and providing solution to the world’s many problems, proving that age is not a barrier to creating impactful changes. The IVD is a special day that transcends borders and unites young changemakers in a shared vision for a better world. This year’s International Volunteers Day is themed “Solidarity through Volunteering”, and hoped to gather all people around the world to volunteer for social and economic development, inspiring people to build a better and sustainable world.

The stories of young volunteers are narratives of change and triumph. From individuals offering themselves and services for the good of the world to organizations leveraging the creativity and agency of young people to create transformative changes in communities around the world, the impact of youth volunteerism has been amazing with incredible impact.

Take, for instance, the story of Maria, a 23-year-old environmental activist from a small town in Brazil. Faced with deforestation and environmental degradation in her community, Maria took it upon herself to organize tree-planting initiatives, educate her neighbors on sustainable practices, and lobby for policy changes. Despite limited resources, Maria’s determination sparked a movement that not only revitalized her local ecosystem but also inspired neighboring communities to follow suit.

Such stories are not isolated incidents but rather representative of a global wave of youth-driven change. From education initiatives in war-torn regions to healthcare interventions in underserved communities, young volunteers are on the frontlines, challenging the status quo and rewriting the narrative of their generation.

At the heart of volunteering lies a profound desire to make a difference. This desire stems from an innate understanding that collective action is the cornerstone of sustainable development. Young volunteers, driven by a sense of responsibility and empathy, channel their passion into projects that align with the SDGs of interest. Their desire for positive change becomes a driving force, propelling them to overcome obstacles and persist in the face of adversity.

It’s not for nothing

There is a huge gain in engaging in active volunteering. Purposeful volunteering benefits both the communities and volunteers themselves. While the impact of volunteering on communities is undeniable, there is an enormous benefit for volunteers who are making commitment to change the world. Here are a few:

Personal Growth and Skill Development

Volunteering serves as a fertile ground for personal growth. Young volunteers often find themselves in situations that demand resilience, adaptability, and effective communication—skills that are not only crucial for project success but also for personal and professional development. Whether organizing events, managing teams, or navigating cross-cultural interactions, volunteers acquire a toolkit of skills that enhances their overall competence.

Building Connections and Networks

The relationships forged during volunteer experiences are invaluable. From collaborating with like-minded peers to forming connections with community members, volunteers build a diverse network that extends beyond the duration of their projects and become essential resource that position individuals for employment. In many occasions, these connections become lifelong friendships and professional associations, creating a web of support and collaboration that transcends geographical boundaries and capable of advancing personal and professional goals.

Global Perspective and Cultural Competence

Volunteering, especially on projects with a global impact, provides young individuals with a unique opportunity to develop a global perspective. Many times, people are limited in their perspective and worldview because they’ve not had the opportunity to experience the world beyond their local environment.  The opportunity of engaging with diverse people, communities and groups builds empathy and compassion, fosters cultural competence and a deep understanding of global issues. This expanded worldview not only enriches the volunteers’ lives but also equips them to be empathetic global citizens.

Enhanced Well-being and Fulfillment

The sense of purpose derived from contributing to a meaningful cause is a powerful driver of well-being. Volunteers often report higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness as they witness the positive impact of their efforts. The fulfillment derived from knowing that one’s actions contribute to something larger than oneself is a profound motivator that transcends the challenges encountered along the way.


As we reflect on this year’s International Volunteers Day, it becomes evident that the youth are not merely the trite expression “leaders of tomorrow” but possess incredible creativity, agency and innovativeness that is driving sustainable development in the world today. With stories that inspire, actions uplift, and dedication that motivate, they are propelling the world towards a more sustainable and equitable future.

In the symphony of global progress, the voices of these young changemakers harmonize to create a melody of hope and resilience. Let us heed their call, celebrate their achievements, and join all volunteers committed to advancing and localizing the Sustainable Development Goals. For in the collective efforts of individuals, lies the power to reshape our world and forge a legacy of positive change for generations to come.

Happy International Volunteers Day!

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