The importance of engaging young people in volunteerism was highlighted during the Global Peace Convention 2023. The Youth Volunteerism and Service Learning Program Empowering Communities through Volunteerism and Service Learning for Global Peace was held at the University of Makati on December 12th. It was inspiring to see the small auditorium filled with such young, engaged, and caring volunteers. As both current influencers and future leaders, the youth of the world carry the torch to serve others and make a positive impact on their families, communities, and society.
Welcoming the youth, Angeline Fuastino, De la Sal University student volunteer, counseled, “Commitment to volunteerism is not a small act. It is an action that requires radiance. It is a bold declaration that we young people refuse to be mere spectators in the scene of global affairs.” Ms. Fuastino also noted that service learning not only allows young volunteers to learn but to also give back to their communities and serve in a way where giving does not end.
Marco Roncarati, president of the United Nations ESCAP Staff Association, opened the program as a keynote speaker. Having worked with young people for many years, he not only acknowledged the energy of youth but also the need for them to maintain that energy throughout life—especially in their volunteerism. To do so, young volunteers need to take care of themselves to take care of others, a theme that was often repeated throughout the session. Taking the attendees on a “journey of learning,” he walked the audience through the steps to accomplish this, including adopting a healthy lifestyle and balancing wisdom and kindness. Universal concepts such as Global Peace Foundation’s (GPF) vision of “One Family Under God” are also important. He noted, “The happiest people in essence, are those who serve, who help others.”
Two panel discussions were held, each of which had a diversified group of panelists who were eager to share their knowledge and experience. The first panel was The Impact of Volunteerism and Service Learning on Youth Empowerment and Leadership Development. Topics of discussion included challenges youth face in gaining information about and access to volunteer opportunities, volunteerism’s role in improving quality education in disadvantaged areas, and how to encourage volunteers experiencing anxiety and other disorders.
The four panelists provided insightful information for each topic. Dr. Via Roderos, executive director of Alliance for Improving Health Outcomes, noted that events such as the one today sponsored by GPF are very helpful in providing young people with the information and connections they need to engage in volunteerism. Marsya Nurmaranti, executive director Indorelawan, recognized that youth volunteers can share their knowledge and become role models for disadvantaged children. Several panelists agreed that when experiencing mental health issues, “it’s okay not to feel okay,” and volunteers should use their group as an anchoring point. Youssef Paglas, a board member of the Provincial Government, responded, “If you need to take a few steps back, take a few steps back, but don’t turn around.” Jufitri Bin Joha, chairman of Benevolent Malaysia and deputy chairman of Global Peace Mission, said that when experiencing down periods, it could be helpful to think about the happiness you are delivering.
The second panel discussion was Volunteerism and Service-Learning Programs: Best Practices and Success Stories. Like the first panel, the five panelists were a diverse group who enthusiastically shared their knowledge and experience. Key elements of the discussion included successful youth volunteer programs and their implementation, responding to criticism, and instilling the knowledge and importance of volunteerism in young children and youth.
On the topic of successful youth and volunteer programs, Donald James, D. Gawe, executive director of the Philippines National Volunteer Service Coordinating Agency, noted sustainability of youth volunteer programs can be challenging. He said, “So I think one of the success factors is really support from organizations such as the government as well as civil society organizations.” Von Edrian Villanueva, corporate communications manager, at PNB Holdings Corporation, noted that successful programs should be relevant, responsive, and accountable.
To protect against criticism, Benjie Aquino, a Kofi Annan Changemaker, suggested that youth volunteers must not be thin-skinned, “but when you are accessing the feedback, you have to be able to separate feedback that is just bullying from feedback that you can take action on.” Khan Bahna, program and monitoring and evaluation officer, Youth Star Cambodia, compared success to impact. He said, “To achieve success in the long run, you need action. Action, and who can do it? Youth, young people, are the catalyst in pushing forward the improvement of the society of community.” To encourage volunteerism in young children and youth, Faliqul Jannah Firdusi, a lihat sekeliling mentor of GPY Bandung, suggested that giving young children the opportunity to experience volunteerism firsthand and feel the joy of doing so can instill them a desire to be a volunteer.
The program was an inspiring event for the young people in attendance. One attendee’s reason for attending the event was his “passion to help others.” His overall impression of the event was, “It’s wonderful!” which appeared to sum up the enthusiasm and overall sentiment of most attendees.