There is so much work to be done if we want to realise the UN SDGs. We need to transform our energy, transport, and food sectors. We need massive investment in housing, education, and childcare. We need to clear up our environment and completely reorganise the economy, stopping the exploitation of people and nature across the globe. We are all sold on the need to make our world fairer and greener. Now we must start working in solidarity with our communities, contributing in our own way to make a better world possible.
There are already many in our community going the extra mile for the rest of us. When my street was hit by massive rainfall and flooding, my neighbour was out navigating traffic, helping people whose vehicles had broken down because of the water, and was clearing drains to try and stop the flooding. His community spirit and care for his area meant he gave up a whole evening helping others. While he didn’t volunteer with an organisation, his work was incredibly valuable to the whole street that day. If he organised a coalition of locals who knew what to do in times of flooding, he essentially would have established a volunteer flooding crisis response team. In the UK, the pandemic and the subsequent loss of work, meant that thousands of new local organisations were established, often run by volunteers just trying to help their neighbours. Food banks, delivery services, and befriending to stop loneliness were just some of the activities that people began to offer. These services were essential for the survival of many during the Covid crisis.
If we want to create meaningful change in our communities, we should all work together, share knowledge, and help one another. Even if you don't feel like there's a role for you, there is always some group or organisation who would benefit from your time. Volunteering has so many levels; you could work for a national charity or with a local community group. There are also such a variety of roles. Here in the UK, we have charity shops across the nation that desperately need more people to volunteer as staff to help keep them running. National helplines and advice centres, but also local or student ones too, often use volunteers to help keep their services free. If you care about the climate you could organise or join beach clean-ups, or fundraise for a wildlife charity. Equally, you could just try and help your local community. During the pandemic, many more people needed food banks, deliveries, or just somebody to talk to, and communities stepped up to help one another out!
Volunteering doesn't just help others, it helps us too. Lots of us don't feel that what we do each day for work is making a positive difference. One 2015 study from the UK found that only 50% of adults thought that their work made a meaningful contribution to the world. Doing something good for others, or working to be part of the solution to a problem, can provide us with a sense of purpose.
Overall, volunteering makes us feel valuable and important, integrates us into our local communities, and provides a meaningful service with far-reaching benefits. If we became a society that really valued volunteering, that encouraged all to get involved with it, we might find that the world we are dreaming of is closer than we think.