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Volunteer values

These words (right) speak volumes about the motivations, commitment and courage of volunteers around the world — as well as the rewards of giving one’s time to help others.

As we prepare for 2011, the anniversary of the tenth international Year of the Volunteer, Red Cross Red Crescent magazine reports on the contributions volunteers make and on efforts, within the Movement and without, to calculate that contribution in economic and social terms. While we all know the contribution is tremendous — especially in times of crisis — it’s rare in this world of financial stress, global consumerism and geopolitical conflict that simple acts of kindness are afforded concrete value.

That needs to change. It’s time world leaders recognize that worth is not only measured in taxable income, commodity exports or consumer spending. As leaders such as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon have recognized, volunteers play a key role in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (reducing poverty, preventing and eradicating disease, reducing child mortality and improving maternal health — to name just four of the goals). In this and coming issues of Red Cross Red Crescent, you’ll see examples of volunteers doing just that: preventing maternity-related deaths in Pakistan; reducing polio in West Africa and Afghanistan; boosting local agrarian economies in drought- and conflict-stricken areas; and delivering aid and healthcare to children and other vulnerable people.

Many of these volunteers regularly put their health, livelihoods, family life — and their lives — on the line. So how can we better support, protect, prepare, train, motivate and retain them? Are we doing enough? Volunteers interviewed in this issue’s cover story address some of these concerns, including the economic value of their work, the need for insurance or other support, the importance of neutrality and the sacrifices they make.

Along with profiles of volunteers (such as our interview with Haitian nurse Germaine Pierre-Louis on page 8), we will tackle many of these issues in a series of stories to run throughout the coming year. As part of this series, we put the question to you on page 8: what should the Movement do to better support, motivate and protect volunteers? On page 23, we ask for your opinions about human trafficking: how should the Movement respond? Tell us what you think about these and other stories — and we will publish a collection of your views in a future issue. As we take on more issues of discussion and debate within the Movement, we will also begin to publish your letters. Please send us your views, comments and letters via rcrc@ifrc.org or at the address on page 3.

Thank you in advance for all your contributions.

Malcolm Lucard
Editor Red Cross Red Crescent

 


“The value of this work is
uncountable. If I help one person, that one person goes on to help more people and it continues like a chain.”

Shuang Shuang, a volunteer who provides assistance and counselling to HIV-positive people in Fu Shun, China, with support from the Red Cross Society of China

 


“I feel safe volunteering with the Red Crescent. It does not get involved with all this politics business and that is its strength. This is why I will continue volunteering.”
Hashmat Ali, volunteer for the Pakistan Red Crescent Society

 

“Every morning, I wake up saying to myself that I cannot accept anyone’s suffering.”
Germaine Pierre-Louis, volunteer for the Haitian Red Cross Society and one of three recipients of the 2010 Florence Nightingale award

 

“You cannot have as much
happiness as when you help a person suffering and he says‘Thank you’.”

Fawwad Sherwani, volunteer for the Pakistan Red Crescent Society

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