Across the globe, volunteers use their time, talent and resources to tackle tough challenges and build stronger, more vibrant communities. With our global network of more than 200 affiliates, Points of Light will celebrate International Volunteer Day on December 5, recognizing volunteers in communities around the world who answer the call to serve, every day and especially in times of need.
As part of this celebration, we are spotlighting a few of our affiliate leaders to share the story of their work and how their volunteers are making a difference locally. In Paris, France, Stéphanie Andrieux – founder and president of our affiliate Benenova – is motivated by people. Inspired by her experience as a volunteer and board member of HandsOn Bay Area, our affiliate in San Francisco, Stéphanie launched Benenova in 2013 with a mission to make it easier for citizens to take action to change the world around them. The organization, which derives its name from the French words bénévolat (volunteering) and nouveau (new), offers innovative and flexible ways to be engaged. Benenova currently mobilizes a growing community of 6,000 volunteers and hundreds of community and corporate partners in three major French cities: Paris, Nantes and Lille.
We spoke with Stéphanie to learn more about what drives her, how Benenova inspires and mobilized volunteers locally, and what she envisions for the future of global volunteerism.
As the president of Benenova, what inspires and drives you?
People. The amazing people I meet every day. And the deep belief that we (as humans) are the ones who can make the world better – and that we’d better get to work!
How did you get started in the volunteer space, and what led you to create Benenova?
I have been a volunteer since I was a teenager, initially helping kids with school work. I met such wonderful people and saw so much great and essential work done by volunteers that it became obvious to me that I should support the development of engagement. As to what led me to create Benenova, it is a mix of the incredible experience I had with HandsOn Bay Area when I lived in San Francisco, and the realization that a more practical and flexible approach of volunteering was needed in France.
How do you draw volunteers’ attention to real problems in their communities and equip them to be changemakers themselves?
We led an impact study last year, which showed that 83 percent of volunteers who have participated in at least one of our calendar projects view issues in a different way after they have met nonprofits, beneficiaries and citizens who deal with these issues directly. I believe that getting people out in the field and having them “get their hands dirty” is a very effective way to draw people’s attention to real problems. Equipping people is both a matter of logistics (bringing people to take on tasks that fit their expectations and skills while answering real needs) and inspiration (helping citizen realize they CAN be changemakers and inspire them to DREAM about being changemakers).
What advice do you give to individuals who want to get involved, but don’t think they can make a difference?
TRY!! Give it a try, sign up for a project and you’ll be amazed about how you will feel and how much you will have helped … and there is a good chance you’ll get addicted.
What has been the biggest benefit of being part of Points of Light’s affiliate network?
The amazing and inspiring changemakers in the network, the common passion we share, and our openness and desire to support each other in bringing more people out to volunteer.
What emerging trend in volunteerism are you most excited about?
I really love the fact that citizens are realizing they can make a difference every day, in many different ways, by choosing what food they eat, what products they buy, whether they bike or drive, etc. I am hoping this will continue to evolve and that volunteering – as in sharing some of your time to help further an initiative for the greater good – will simply become an obvious part of daily life.