21st Century Youth Volunteerism

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. In return, this activity produces a feeling of self self-worth and respect; however, there is no financial gain. Volunteering is also renowned for skill development, socialization, and fun. It is also intended to make contacts for possible employment. Many volunteers are specifically trained in the areas they work, such as medicine, education, or emergency rescue etc. Others serve on an as-needed basis, such as in response to a natural disaster.

In my opinion, Volunteering is serving a cause greater than one’s self, is a way of giving back to the community the many blessings and courtesies that someone had received in return. It means taking the time and dedicating one’s effort and time to help another who cannot help him/herself. It means also, providing those who need just a little boost to get started climbing the ladder of success. It means a few minutes of one’s time, but to those who are struggling, it can mean absolutely everything. For me, it gives an opportunity to provide hope, balance and consideration to others, and it is my honor to assist a struggling friend!

The essential role of every individual in my opinion is to help others, thats why God almighty have created us in the first level. Volunteering is the giving of yourself, your time and talents to help others and make a difference in someone else’s life. Volunteers are the backbone of every society and a force that is mostly unrecognized and unrewarded. Giving up time in order to make a difference for a group of people or even just one person is something important in volunteering work. Knowing that your work is valued and in exchange getting paid by seeing happiness around you, that’s our credit!

I don’t hide that Volunteering nowadays is mixed with challenges and its road is too difficult and full of struggles and difficulties for those who made their choice to take it. To be a Volunteer in the 21st century is to battle with almost all those who disagree with your beliefs and thoughts. As an Arab citizen, and a Human Rights Defender, I’ve experienced what a Volunteer really means. To me, Volunteering is a school itself for learning things you do not actually learn at the high school, college or university. For the first glance, you’ll find out that Volunteering is something simple, and yes it is, all what you have to do is to sacrifice with a little time you have and take the lead in any field you find yourself can make a difference in, but once you do that, you figure out the huge responsibilities you need to handle, and here comes the difficult part of it.

The interests of nowadays Volunteers are not the same as the past generations. The 21st generation’s interests are different than the past ones in everything. Also the global atmosphere our generation is living in is different as well from what it used to be in the past. The needs and capabilities have changed too. I believe that what differentiate the 21st generation, my generation of the past generations is that we’ve been born in “War Time” (at least in my region) which had put almost all the individuals in an unstable environment, which had made them “revolutionaries”, which have increased our responsibilities as well as the challenges we are facing. Also what differentiate the 21st generation from other former generations is the “Technological and Digital Era” which had widened our look towards the world in whole as a one country through the creation of social media and online telecommunications such as Twitter, Facebook and Orkut which have helped people to share information and news while sitting in their houses or being at work. Also, the International Volunteerism movement is much better nowadays, more professional and more organized, through its engagement in development and reconstruction initiatives and programs worldwide. This includes both short and long-term assignments through either governmental or non-governmental agencies active in almost every country of the world. Internet also facilitates Volunteerism by matching the interests of Volunteers with the needs they find are worthy to be solved before anything else.

As an Arab citizen, I’m experiencing the ongoing Arab Spring in our Region which started in Tunisia then Egypt then Libya and now taking its way in Syria. This Arab Spring created a need in our societies, especially those who have witnessed these eruptions or revolutions. The numbers of young Volunteers were very large in response to the urgent needs left by these revolutions. To me as a Lebanese citizen I was more familiar and closer to the Syrian Revolution than the other revolutions in the region, due to the fact that I can’t split myself from the Syrian situation as we –the Lebanese- are the nearest to Syria in terms of geography and culture. My Volunteering experience was tested the most during this Syrian Spring, as I have started many humanitarian initiatives with many Lebanese, Palestinian and Syrian young activists in Lebanon, mostly university students. We worked on assisting Syrian Refugees by providing or at least helping in the search of shelters and distributing food, blankets, clothes, medicine, essential stuff for living, toys for the kids, and the most important, easing their pain, and in my opinion easing one’s pain is the peak of Volunteerism someone can reach and the noblest goal of it, and that what makes Volunteerism a blessed message!

Volunteer work in the 21st century is painted with challenges as I said before. The type of work a Volunteer does, is ultimately determined by the needs of the country and society he/she lives in and the potential of a Volunteer to contribute to those needs and demands. There is a wide variety of Volunteer positions to fill throughout the world, however, nearly all 21st  century Volunteers fall under education, youth and community development, humanitarian. These sectors have the biggest number of Volunteers compared to other sectors such as, health (educate and promote awareness issues), environment, agriculture and information technology. There is a great need for Agriculture Volunteers who work with small farmers to increase food production while promoting environmental conservation practices. Also, we need more of Environment Volunteers who work on a wide variety of activities, from teaching environmental awareness to planting trees within a community. Also, we need more of Healthcare Volunteers who work with patients and people in need, educate and promote awareness among them in the war and peace times as well.

Finally, we should know that needs are like hunger. Eating once won’t satisfy our hunger forever, but good meals will stave the hunger away for longer than little snacks, and are healthier and less hassle. Filling our partner’s needs won’t make them go away forever, they will need to be met on a regular occasion. We should figure out how often and for how long they need us to fill their needs, and set aside that time. Soon we’ll get good enough that they won’t even realize that they’ve started getting “hungry” at all.