Celebrating International Volunteer Day

Johannesburg South Africa 5 Dec 2019 – An estimated 1 billion people worldwide volunteer each year, constituting a powerful global force tackling the many challenges we face in our world today. On International Volunteer Day, instituted by the United Nations and celebrated on 5 December each year, we recognise and appreciate these selfless modern-day heroes and the astounding contribution to they make to shaping a better world for all, including conserving our planet’s endangered wildlife.

If the world’s volunteers were a nation, they would constitute the largest adult population in the world, behind only China, and would have seventh largest economy in the world, behind the US, Japan, Germany, China, the UK and France, notes a study by WYSE Travel Confederation, a leading trade association for the global work and volunteer abroad industry. According to the United Nations, this global volunteer workforce is equivalent to 109 million full-time workers, exceeding the number of workers in many major global industries – a substantial social and economic asset, mobilizing extraordinary resources, talents and the goodwill of ordinary people worldwide.

In addition to the man-hours, skills and tourism-spend volunteers contribute, the WYSE research notes that international volunteering contributes towards achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, fosters mutually-beneficial exchange of cultural knowledge and increases awareness of the pressing issues of our time.

“Certainly, one of these issues is wildlife crime, with only the trade in drugs and illegal arms now rivalling the illegal wildlife trafficking market for profit and exploitation. Conserving our wildlife for future generations, in the face of growing and ever-more sophisticated poaching and wildlife crime, requires a global effort. Thankfully, millions of volunteers from all over the world are standing up to turn the tide in wildlife conservation – ordinary citizens who are willing to travel to far-away lands, roll up their sleeves and do what must be done to save our wildlife. There is no doubt that these volunteers are making a real and tangible difference in protecting and conserving our wildlife, while also changing their own lives for the better,” says Earl Smith, founder and CEO of Volunteer Southern Africa.

“We have witnessed first-hand the impact volunteers make, having hosted more than 9,500 volunteers from 25 countries over the last 10 years. Our Volunteer Southern Africa volunteers have helped to rehabilitate more than 1,100 animals, donating countless manhours and contributing significant tourism spend to diverse wildlife conservation projects across Southern Africa, ensuring that conservationists and wildlife sanctuaries are no longer constrained by few hands and limited budgets. Our volunteers contribute enormous amounts of manhours as well as much needed funds to help cover the vast expenses of looking after our precious wildlife and conservation areas. In addition, volunteers also share their experiences with their social networks, raising crucial awareness of the importance of wildlife conservation,” adds Smith. “Wildlife conservation volunteering has the potential of becoming a powerful force in wildlife conservation efforts. It gives me renewed hope that we can turn the tide against professional poaching and wildlife crime syndicates that decimate our wildlife heritage.”

“Volunteerism is the voice of the people put into action. These actions shape and mold the present into a future of which we can all be proud.” – Helen Dyer

On the forefront of facilitating safe and ethical wildlife conservation volunteering, Volunteer Southern Africa takes great pride in professionally recruiting, hosting and looking after volunteers during their stay at a wildlife conservation program that ignites their passion and changes their lives for the better, while making a real contribution to the global effort to conserve our planet’s most iconic wildlife.

Wildlife volunteering is one of the best ways to volunteer – and to enjoy an extraordinary travel experience, living and working hands-on day-to-day with local people and wild animals in places tourists would rarely see. It is also a great opportunity to meet other volunteers with similar passions and interests from all over the world, some of whom will become life-long friends and important connections for the future. Volunteering also allows you to broaden your knowledge and abilities, gain experience and a new perspective on life, and learn life skills that will benefit you in future. Perhaps most importantly, witnessing the impact your actions, being part of the solution, working with other like-minded people and realising that you can make a difference: these are life-changing experiences. It is what drives people to keep volunteering.

“It truly is the travel and volunteer experience of a lifetime – as evidenced by the fact that more than 850 of our volunteers return again and again,” says Smith. “Together with these wildlife champions, we at Volunteer Southern Africa are making a significant impact on wildlife conservation – on the ground, where it counts – leaving a lasting and bio-diverse legacy to future generations.”