National Volunteer Week: Celebrating Acts of Service

Apr 8, 2019

Photo courtesy of Benenova, a Points of Light Global Network affiliate.

A lot has been said about the benefits of traveling. It can energize you and broaden your horizons. Travel can humble and inspire you, and help put your life and daily routines in perspective. After traveling to New Delhi, India a few weeks ago, I certainly came home feeling all those things.

Natalye Paquin, Notes from Natalye
Natalye Paquin, President & CEO, Points of Light

While there, I learned through our affiliate organization, iVolunteer, that some of India’s leaders are asking their citizens an important question: Is it possible for the entire Indian population to volunteer? Imagine the impact of 1.3 billion acts of service. By 2028, India will be the largest country in the world by population. Wow, I thought, what a very big question and aspiration.

What if they actually do it?

We often talk about technology as a disrupter. But what about the disruptive power of people through volunteering and service? Consider the seismic shift that occurs when someone in need is cared for, clothed, fed, or when a playground is restored, a beautiful mural is painted on an abandoned neighborhood building, or a beach is cleaned.

Concerned individuals who bring their talent, skills or simple helpfulness and lend support to something they care about; these micro-moments of service are transformative. And they happen every day.

Our society’s toughest challenges – hunger, poverty, education, access to food and medical care – are being tackled by volunteers. The ingenuity of volunteering is incredible. And while technology has certainly changed the world in countless ways, most technology is about saving time. Because time is valuable. And it becomes even more valuable when we give it away.

That’s what we celebrate when we celebrate National Volunteer Week.

Each one of us has 24 hours a day. You, me, the CEOs of billion-dollar companies, or the owners of your local coffee shop or dry cleaner. Not one of us can buy more time. Time is an equalizer!

So, when we choose to use our most precious commodity in service to others, it is worthy of our celebration, recognition and thanks.

This week during National Volunteer Week, as we do every week, we will recognize five Daily Point of Light honorees. These individuals are giving their time away to help solve problems in their communities.

There’s Hannah, an NYU student who created Transfernation and has turned more than half a million pounds of food that would otherwise be thrown away into half a million meals for the hungry.

Or Linda, a retired nurse in Virginia who volunteers with the Health Wagon to give free medical care to those in need.

There’s Tedman, a young man from the Bay Area who is leading – not one, but two – community service organizations to help more young people volunteer.

Then there’s Alicia, who created Project Petals to offer educational workshops and resources for students in Brooklyn, Harlem and the Bronx – and even as far away as Uganda.

And there’s Terry from Wisconsin. Last fall, a photo of him napping with cats at the shelter where he volunteers went viral, and the shelter received more than $20,000 in donations in just one day.

These individual acts of service can be transformative and they impact not only the recipient of time, but the giver.

A recent study from UnitedHealthcare looked at the physical and mental benefits of volunteering. An interesting finding was that nearly 90 percent of the survey’s participants said that volunteering gave them a broader world view. By choosing to give their time – right where they are – they started to view the world differently.

At Points of Light, we ask you to imagine a world where service to others is everywhere – a world where it’s impossible to stand on the sidelines and do nothing; where it is easy to support causes you care about; where the power of people to be disruptive and dynamic in the very best ways possible is solving the world’s most complex problems.

To those who are creating that world, we thank you – during National Volunteer Week and every day. You are making a difference. Your service is celebrated, and it is very much appreciated.

Celebrate service during National Volunteer week, and nominate an extraordinary volunteer for the Daily Point of Light Award.

Natalye Paquin