Celebrating International Volunteer Day
Celebrating International Volunteer Day
Simone Galimberti explores the importance of volunteers to the sport for development team, and how volunteerism helps a person grow, holistically.
The last time we all participated in an activity together was exactly one year ago, 5 December 2019, when ENGAGE participated in the official celebrations of International Volunteer Day.
It was a fun activity, as we were holding a mobile “one stop” center to promote volunteerism in one of the most crowded areas of Kathmandu, Nepal, interacting and talking to people from all walks of life about the importance of volunteering.
Our ENGAGE Sport Coaches are young volunteers with a passion for sports and champions of social inclusion who serve for one year with teams of peer athletes living with disabilities, coaching them, and more importantly, learning from them.
The pandemic stopped all our sports-based activities in wheelchair basketball, deaf football and blind cricket; but, nevertheless, a core group of our ENGAGE Sport Coaches remained engaged with us, organizing online trainings during the lockdown, in a program implemented with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Nepal.
So, on this special day, I would like to thank all of them, those who are in Nepal and those who have left for overseas opportunities. Thinking of them reminds me of the millions of volunteers who are involved in sports for development and peace all over the world.
Volunteering in sports for the good of the society is often overlooked, as if it were a less noble or less meaningful way to contribute to the betterment of the society. What a mistake!
Transformations do happen because of volunteering in sports, but they are hard to measure because we often neglect the inner changes within the volunteers themselves. If we think of all our young, enthusiastic coaches, I see not only a lot of potential, but also lots of skills and abilities, many of which were nourished while volunteering.
After all, we believe that volunteering is the best way to grow personally and professionally, and sports can be the link that connects youth with challenges and problems that are out there in the society.
We cannot definitively claim that our program helped Nepal becoming more inclusive, more accessible and more respectful of citizens with disabilities. But what we can claim, for sure, is that our volunteers pushed and challenged themselves at the best of what they could.
What counts is to be ready to get out of your comfort zones, have the right attitudes and try to be useful, embracing and combining, in our case, the passion for sports and disability rights.
We believe that volunteering in sports enable all this. It is also incredibly good at promoting positive values and that is why it is so transformative, allowing volunteers to come to know themselves better, to grow from the human point of view, and this is what matters most.
By loving sports, you became a champion of a cause – gender, environment, social inclusion, the fight against addiction or the fight against intolerance, for example.
At the end you develop a bond, a deep one with your peers, with your beneficiaries that have actually become your teachers. Values, relationships, challenges, impact, growth – these are the key words that, according to me, define any volunteering in sports program.
Ideally, we should have better way to acknowledge their contributions. Maybe we should come up with some awards or some global campaigns to acknowledge, recognize and celebrate the gestures, achievements and also the failures of thousands, if not millions, of volunteers in sports.
Sports is a powerful agent of change, especially at its purest forms, without the business and showmanship. This is getting rarer and rarer, unfortunately, but volunteerism can really help sports to become one of the best tools to achieve positive changes in the society.
No matter the challenges that remain in measuring its impact, the fact that it helps a youth grow holistically, the John Wooden way, is something remarkable enough.
Today I would like to recognize our past and present ENGAGE Sport Coaches and all the volunteers in sports around the world for their commitments to try to make the society a little better. I have no doubt that wherever you are, even if you have interrupted your volunteering journey, you will remain an agent of change.
Perhaps you do not know, but today is your day. Happy International Volunteer Day to all of you.