Today, the world is celebrating the ‘International Volunteer Day’ (IVD), an opportunity for the International Humanitarian City (IHC) to recap on the growing popularity of its ‘Volunteer & Pro Bono Relations’ services and highlight some of the main challenges met while implementing them.

WHAT IS IVD?

The International Volunteer Day for Economic and Social Development (IVD) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution A/RES/40/212 on 17 December 1985. Since then, governments, the UN system and civil society organizations have successfully joined volunteers around the world to celebrate the Day on 5 December.

IVD offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individual volunteers to make visible their contributions – at local, national and international levels – to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The critical question is, however, what happens on 6 December? Newspapers may turn their attention elsewhere and sound bites may fade away, but the work of volunteers goes on with or without publicity and well-deserved recognition. The spirit of IVD must live on as well. Encouraging more people to volunteer is a 365-days-a-year task. If you consider the committed work of volunteers of all ages around the globe, carrying out every imaginable kind of activity, IVD should be a day that never ends.

To know more about this event, visit the official IVD website.

ESTABLISHING IHC’S ‘VOLUNTEER & PRO BONO RELATIONS’ SERVICES

As a facilitator of humanitarian efforts and as part of the support services offered to its member organisations, IHC strives to facilitate the connection and collaboration between nonprofit organisations and members of the community for mutual benefit.

‘Volunteering’ refers to general services than can be fulfilled by individuals of all ages and education background (e.g. supervising an event, manning a call centre, distributing flyers, etc.), while ‘pro bono work’ refers to specific professional services offered by an individual professional or a company for free (e.g. pro bono graphic design jobs, pro bono legal consultancy, pro bono translation services, etc.).

The IHC’s ‘Volunteer & Pro Bono Relations’ services were initiated in 2006 and within a few months established an offline database of a few hundreds registered volunteers and pro bono professionals based in Dubai. The facility of these services allows IHC to play an active role in assisting nonprofit organisations to recruit volunteers and to provide support at charitable initiatives in Dubai. Examples include:

Volunteering:
• UNICEF Donation Centre for the victims of the bombing Lebanon (July 2006)
• UNICEF fundraising campaign on the occasion of the ‘Singing for a Good Cause’ concert (September 2006)
• SNF Support Centre for Families of Children with Special Needs’s summer camps (May 2006)
• SNF Support Centre for Families of Children with Special Needs’s fun bazaar (October 2006)
• AUD’s fundraising campaign and collection of in-kind donations for Lebanon (July 2006)

Pro bono:
• All As One’s re-branding and new corporate material
• Gulf for Good’s e-flyers

Some short-term volunteer missions turn into long-term partnerships… We regularly hear from volunteers who got involved with a nonprofit organisation through IHC in the past and now work there as full time volunteers: Ms. Safia Bari, Director of SNF recently said, “We are so grateful to IHC for bringing us such a precious angel”, referring to a volunteer who eventually became an active pillar and key contributor to SNF.

Pro bono work always turns out to be a particularly gratifying experience: “Pro bono work is such an enjoyable and rewarding experience, from both a personal and professional points of view,” explained Dana Khalil, who worked as a pro bono graphic designer for All As One and Gulf for Good. “On one hand I get the chance to work with the most kind hearted and enthusiastic people and be part of beautiful projects, and on the other hand I get the opportunity to work on inspiring projects, express my creativity and enhance my portfolio.”

IHC’S NEW ‘VOLUNTEERING & PRO BONO’ E-PORTAL

With the new IHC website comes an e-portal entirely dedicated to volunteering and pro bono work, which offers individuals and companies the opportunity to register online as stand-by resources for charitable projects. Once registered, the profiles of candidates for volunteering or pro bono work are added to online databases, that are accessible by the nonprofit organisations registered with the IHC and utilised when needs arise. The role of IHC stops after the facilitation of these connections and the story continues between the organisations and the volunteers.

IHC has also set up a mechanism enabling Dubai-based humanitarian organisations – local and international charities, official members of the IHC as well as non-members – to post their ‘Volunteer Appeals’ through the IHC website, including details about the project, required services and points of contact. Nonprofit organisations willing to use this free service can email their appeal to info@ihc.ae. Upon review and approval of their announcement by the IHC team, their appeal will be posted on the IHC website. The appeals now become accessible to all the Dubai residents who regularly use this platform searching for opportunities, in accordance with their respective affinities and time availability, to offer their time and expertise to a valuable cause.

Several ‘Volunteer Appeals’ were posted on the IHC website in the last few months on behalf of humanitarian organisations such as:
• SOS Children’s Villages
• START
• PlaNet Finance
• International Association for Humanitarian Values
• Life for Relief and Development
• The Dhaka Project
• The Creative Majlis
• Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)

Since the establishment of IHC’s volunteering & pro bono e-portal in May 2007, several hundreds of individuals and professionals of all ages, origins and areas of expertise have enlisted their profile in the IHC databases:
> Prefered form of community service: general volunteering (85%) vs. pro bono work (15%) – this needs to change!
> Employment status: mainly full-time employees (55%), followed by students (21%)
> Residence: mostly based in the UAE (89%)
> Nationalities: all continents represented! Middle-East (21%), Asia (45%), Europe (15%), Africa (9%), Americas (8%) and Oceania (2%).

OFFER HIGHER THAN DEMAND

Despite a genuine interest to support humanitarian projects, many volunteers find it challenging to find volunteer opportunities in Dubai. It seems more people are eager to help than organisations are expressing a need for such help…

IHC makes three recommendations in this sense:

1) To individual volunteer candidates in Dubai:
Consider pro bono work as a smart and effective alternative to contribute: “Offer what you know best!” Like commercial entities, humanitarian organisations need professional expertise to operate, yet cannot always afford such services in-house and on the long-term. Pro bono is always a highly rewarding experience for both parties. The best thing is to apply both as a volunteer and a pro bono professional on the IHC website (i.e. complete both online forms: Volunteer Application Form and Pro Bono Application Form).

2) To students, looking for ‘community service’ hours:
Be creative and work as a group! Have a close look at the organisations registered with IHC (go to the ‘Members Directory’ section) and try to think of possible ways proactively add value to one of these organisations: by organising an awareness campaign about the core issues raised by this organisation for instance (e.g. manutrition issues if this organisation focuses on malnutrition, etc.). Then approach this organisation with a comprehensive proposal. Do not hesitate to contact IHC for tips and recommendations.

3) To all local charities and Dubai-based humanitarian organisations that are not registered with IHC:
Use the IHC website as a platform to post your appeals and find the help you need to support your projects! There are just so many great people out there who are just willing to help.

To know more about IHC’s Volunteer & Pro Bono Relations services and the volunteering opportunities available within the IHC community, please visit the Volunteering & Pro Bono section of this website or contact IHC.