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

First of all, I’ll start off my essay by the definition of “Volunteering” or the “Volunteer Work”.

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 medicineeducation, or emergency rescue. 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 I have received in return. It means taking the time to help someone who cannot help themselves, and it means providing for those who need just a little boost to get started climbing the ladder of success. It means a few minutes of my time, but to those who are struggling, it can mean absolutely everything. It gives me 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. 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 means. To me volunteering is a school for learning things you might not learn at your 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.

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 situation this generation is getting through is different as well from the past, needs and capabilities changed too. I believe that what differentiate the 21st generation from the past ones is that this generation has 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”. Also what differentiate the 21st generation from the other generations is the “Technological and Digital World” which put the interests of the 21st youth in the social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Orkut which have helped people to share information and news. Also, the International volunteerism has took a great place in nowadays volunteer work as it is organized engagement in development by volunteers working abroad. It includes both short and long-term assignments through either governmental or non-governmental agencies. Internet also facilitates volunteerism by matching the interests of volunteers with the needs they find are better to be solved before anything else.

As an Arab citizen, I’m experiencing the ongoing Arab Spring in our Region which started in Tunisia, Egypt, 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. Youth volunteer’s numbers were very large in response to the urgent needs left by some of these revolutions. To me as a Lebanese citizen I was more familiar 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 geographically and culturally. My volunteering experience was tested the most during this Arab Spring, as I’ve volunteered with some active university youth on helping Syrian Refugees getting shelters and distributing some food, blankets, clothes, medicine, essential stuff for living, toys for the kids, and the most … easing their pain. I believe that being a volunteer is something blessed.

Volunteer work in the 21st century is painted with challenge as I said before. The type of work a Volunteer does 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 are a wide variety of volunteer positions to fill throughout the world, however, nearly all 21st  century volunteers fall under Education, Youth and Community Development- which has a great number of volunteers, Health (educate and promote awareness issues), Information Technology, Agriculture Volunteers work with small farmers to increase food production while promoting environmental conservation practices, Environment Volunteers work on a wide variety of activities, from teaching environmental awareness to planting trees within a community.

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


Mouaaz Al Ajami

Beirut, Lebanon


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