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Volunteers Act First. Here. Everywhere.

“Volunteers are the first to respond when crisis strikes. They are there to rebuild the most essential infrastructure, especially housing, electricity and healthcare services. Volunteers arrive first because they are themselves members of these communities, and driven by a spirit of solidarity and a desire to contribute to the well-being of others without expecting anything in return,” writes Olivier Adam, Executive Coordinator of UN Volunteers.

What a terrific tribute to volunteers in their own communities and to those who leave their homes to alleviate suffering far away. Volunteers such as those who recently responded to the massive earthquakes in Iran, Iraq and Mexico and the hurricanes devastating much of the Caribbean. And for years, those who have responded to the great needs of migrants and displaced people in places like Bangladesh and Syria.

Now’s the time to celebrate and recognize these volunteers. International Volunteer Day 2017, celebrated worldwide on December 5th, recognizes the powerful, positive force of volunteers who respond in times of crisis and calm, helping save lives today and improve conditions for life tomorrow. Appropriately, the theme for IVD 2017 is “Volunteers Act First. Here. Everywhere.”

If you’ve considered volunteering in response to recent natural disasters or might want to in the future, United Way recommends registering with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. Year-round, International UN Volunteers deploys thousands of volunteers from more than 150 countries across the globe. Go Overseas and Volunteer Forever offer reviews of programs that accept international volunteers.

In times of both calm and crisis, it is important to consider how to be a more effective volunteer abroad. Being exposed to different cultures is valuable for both visitors to and residents of a country, but there are ways to tread lightly as a visiting volunteer. And, don’t forget to consider the value of short-term volunteer experiences; even the Peace Corps gives its volunteers many months to understand and adapt to local culture before beginning significant project work.

With more than 1,800 United Ways around the world engaging nearly 3 million volunteers, United Way offers the chance to “Act First. Here. Everywhere.” to build a safer, healthier and more prosperous world for everyone. What will you do to Act First today?