International Volunteer Day

International Volunteer Day

When: December 5th

Most people need paying jobs to support their families. But when it comes to supporting others within your own community and beyond, volunteering is what makes the difference. December 5th marks International Volunteer Day, a holiday designated to thank the millions of volunteers across the world. At the same time, the day increases the awareness of volunteer opportunities within several countries with the hopes that more people will sign up and give back to their communities.

Formally referred to as International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development, the primary purpose of the day is to encourage volunteer involvement to promote better economic and social policies for everyone. This type of development may be embarked upon at the local level or national level, but many other volunteers also dedicate their talents to international issues, too. Some common issues include gender equality, poverty, child hunger, HIV/AIDS, better education and environmental sustainability.

On December 17, 1985, the United Nations designated December 5th as International Volunteer Day. 1986 was the very first observance of this internationally recognized holiday. Over the last few decades, the holiday has gained increased attention and has further spurred more people to volunteer their time and services to causes around the world.

Sitting right in between Thanksgiving and Christmas, this holiday may be overlooked by those who aren’t heavily involved within the volunteering community. Ironically, it is volunteers who make such holidays happen for many people in the world. Their sacrifices are often measured in time by the way of transporting food and spending time with others to prevent isolation during the holidays. Other volunteers donate their own resources to help make the holidays happen, especially for children during Christmas and Chanukah.

Not only does International Volunteer Day recognize the efforts of the world’s volunteers, but those involved in the United Nations Volunteers programs can obtain special recognition on this day. Outstanding volunteers in these programs have a chance to be thanked on a much larger scale. Such volunteers range from trade professionals offering free services to the needy, as well as those who develop new humanity programs.  Through the UN’s Volunteer program, people can dedicate their time to even write, design, coach and manage advocacy teams.

2001 was particularly special in the history of International Volunteer Day. Commonly coined as the “International Year of Volunteers,” United Nations assembly members worked with governments that year by encouraging support and the encouragement of volunteers. Not only were volunteers encouraged to work with national issues, but they also promoted involvement in international affairs. The wide publicity resulted in a significant surge in volunteers across the world, particularly after the U.S. 9/11 attacks.

This holiday is supported in most of the world’s countries, thanks in part to the support of the United Nations. The International Red Cross and the Scouts are also ardent supporters of the holiday. Involvement is most common among adults, but supporters also reach out to the youth during this holiday, too.

While the United Nations supports this day at its headquarters in New York City, people around the world celebrate this day in the form of parades, rallies, competitions and special projects. As many nations are currently at war, volunteers hold a special place in communities across the world. As communities grow stronger and look to reach out to others, International Volunteer Day is expected to become even more prevalent on a global scale.

You may see supporters of International Volunteer Day wearing shirts and hats with a special symbol. The official logo of the holiday is presented with two olive branches shaped in a semi-circle with three “V” symbols in the middle. The V’s are made to represent people holding hands, symbolizing the continued connections between humans across all borders. The name of the holiday is usually written in orange letters behind the branches.