The act of volunteering is found in all cultures, languages, and religions. This International Volunteer Day, as with every day of the year, hundreds of millions of people around the world will give their time and skills to help create stronger, more resilient communities. As societies in Europe become increasingly diverse, and subject to pressures and divisions, there is so much we need to do to ensure that all in Europe feel truly included.
The EU is founded on values that include respect for human dignity, equality and non-discrimination - it is of the upmost importance that we as Europeans and European Union member states uphold these values. Civil society in Europe recognises that one approach to realising a truly inclusive society is through volunteering.
In September this year Volunteering Matters, the UK’s leading volunteering charity, won ‘Charity of the Year’ at the European Diversity Awards, which recognises the contribution that volunteering can make towards ensuring Europe is a more tolerant, diverse and just society.
Volunteering Matters’ vision is of a society where everyone can participate to build strong and inclusive communities. They know that by investing in people through volunteering we can also reduce inequalities and isolation. This is demonstrated through a wide range of volunteering programmes that promote inclusion.
A great example of this Volunteering Matters’ City Wise project, which is a pioneering London-wide volunteering project supporting people aged 50-65. Targeting the unemployed, the project makes the most of the life and work experience of older people, getting participants to run peer-led activities – from IT training through to media workshop.
One of our peer led activities in CityWise is the Calthorpe project, a gardening maintenance and food growing project in Islington, with groups of elderly people from around the world. The project engages people particularly from Latin America but also European and local volunteers. Participants gain confidence, meet new people and learn new skills – supporting them for potential entry to employment. At the same time the project helps people feel more involved in their community and meet new people.
International Volunteers Day is an opportunity for volunteers, and volunteer organisations, to raise awareness of the contribution they make to inclusivity. By focusing on the needs of people and their communities throughout the world, we know volunteering can make a tangible positive difference to the strength of those communities.
James Moon is the Erasmus+ Project Manager at Volunteering Matters and a member of Volonteurope’s secretariat. James has a long-standing track record of working with young people and adults that have fewer opportunities or are marginalised. He has worked with people as a teacher, trainer, mentor and project manager. James has delivered and managed projects at a local, national and European level.