Volunteering Is a Constant in Both Ordinary and Extraordinary Times

Apr 6, 2022

As we celebrate Global Volunteer Month, we’re celebrating the power of people. In recent years, the backdrop on which this month has taken place has presented some of the most challenging times in our history. This year, we’re facing the COVID-19 pandemic, a call for social justice and now the spotlight on the war in Ukraine.  

Yet in the worst of times, we also see the best in humanity. We see it through volunteers. Chefs from around the world racing to Ukraine’s borders to cook. Teachers, as refugees themselves, conducting classes in bomb shelters. Polish mothers leaving strollers on train station platforms for arriving Ukrainian families. People opening up their homes to strangers, and to their pets too! And aid donations – measured in literal tons – coming in from around the planet.  

Feeding, educating, supporting, welcoming and donating. In extraordinary times and in ordinary times, we can see the best of people. We can see the power of people and the strength of our communities.  

It brings me great hope to see this kind of engagement in times of crisis. But it also brings me hope to know this work happens all the time, in countries in every corner of the world, no matter the circumstances. And at Points of Light, we see them every day. 

  • We see it in Carl Wheeler. The 87-year-old former math teacher is spending his retirement tutoring students at Kapiolani Community College in Honolulu. He also volunteers at his local library, recording books and other materials for his housebound neighbors. 
  • We see it in June Wang. This California teenager created a 360-person volunteer network aimed at tacking inequity in health care. So far, the group has impacted more than 100,000 individuals and raised thousands of dollars to support mental health and other health-related causes.  
  • We see it in Hassan Al Khawam. As a teenager, he fled Syria for Northern Ireland. Today, he helps other refugees, welcoming them to the country with clinics on how to find housing and employment, offering translation services and helping them meet members of the community.  

As these stories illustrate, the best in humanity is all around us.  

Points of Light’s recently-released global civic engagement research looked at civic engagement in four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, Brazil and India. Across all four nations, volunteering, using your voice and listening and learning were cited as among the most important activities.  

And it makes sense. We all want to contribute to a vibrant society where people have agency, promote democracy and participate in the world around them. Global Volunteer Month is about our collective participation and celebrating its importance.  

This Global Volunteer Month, how will you celebrate volunteers – or better yet – volunteer to help those around you? The need is constant and opportunities exist everywhere. And whether your idea is large or small, know that every action matters, and no act is too small to make a difference.  

You have the power to have an impact, and the impact is your power.  

Natalye Paquin