The world’s largest humanitarian network has reported that hundreds of thousands of new volunteers have stepped up to work for free this year during the pandemic.
Today is International Volunteers Day—First celebrated by the United Nations 35 years ago, so it is fitting that the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), formed in 1919, is capping off a century of service by welcoming the many kind-hearted new volunteers worldwide.
Some of the highest numbers for volunteering came from the American Red Cross with 78,000 new sign-ups. The Italian Red Cross welcomed nearly 60,000 new sign-ups as part of its ‘Time of Kindness’ initiative. The Netherlands logged 48,000 new volunteers recruited through their Ready2Help citizen aid network — and Kenya is training 35,000 new people.
Significant increases were also reported by the Argentina, Kyrgyzstan, and even Tuvalu, an island country in the west-central Pacific with no recorded cases of COVID-19 welcomed over 130 new volunteers.
Collectively, they have reached tens of millions of people in nearly every country of the world, while also responding to hundreds of other disasters.
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New and long-standing volunteers have dedicated their time to wide-ranging COVID-19 response activities, including:
- delivering essential food and medical items;
- transporting patients to health facilities;
- supporting with testing and contact tracing;
- providing psychosocial support to vulnerable and quarantined people;
- distributing personal protective equipment (PPE);
- and providing trusted and accurate health information to their communities.
“This year, in response to unprecedented humanitarian need, the IFRC has witnessed equally unprecedented humanity and kindness – with hundreds of thousands of people joining the Red Cross Red Crescent family for the first time, all the while contending with the terrible impacts of COVID- 19 on their own lives, ”said Francesco Rocca, President of the IFRC.
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“Though the future can seem bleak and the world divided because of this virus, every individual action of solidarity, of peace, of lending a hand and supporting your community matters,” he added.
In the first 6 months of the global COVID-19 response, the IFRC allocated over 120 million Swiss francs to support compassionate responses in 153 nations.
New volunteers came from all ages and backgrounds – teachers, parents, nurses, students, bankers, artists, potentially now unemployed or furloughed, young and old – and motivated by a common desire to serve their communities.
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Tracy Kyomuhendo, a student in Kampala, joined the Uganda Red Cross in March when COVID-19 hit and a national lockdown halted her studies.
“I joined because I wanted to sensitize my community about the virus and help protect them – some people here didn’t even think coronavirus was real. Volunteering has helped me build my skills as a person and also achieve my dream of serving humanity. It’s now part of me! I feel more connected with my community than ever before. “
All the millions of volunteers are a true light in uncertain and troubling times. Learn how you can become a volunteer at the IFRC website.
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