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April16–May 7

National Volunteer Week – April 16-May 7, 2023

National Volunteer Week is celebrated annually during the third week of April and this year it will be observed from April 16 to May 7. This week-long celebration is about placing a spotlight on inspiring figures whose invaluable seeds of kindness through volunteering are bettering the community and our world in general. This significant celebration which was established in 1974 provides the perfect opportunity to say thank you. It also challenges us to do better and look for ways to be active participants, joining hands to impact our local communities and calling for more support.

History of National Volunteer Week

The power to transform lives and our world, in general, is visible at every turn, and the National Volunteer Week raises awareness about the need to beef up volunteer efforts, and preaches the gratifying sense of fulfillment derived through acts of volunteerism. The word ‘Volunteer,’ derived from the late 16th-century French ‘volontaire,’ meaning ‘voluntary,’ was associated with the military: “one who offers himself for military service.” In the 1630s it began to transcend beyond the non-military sense.

The National Volunteer Week officially took root in the U.S. in 1974, many thanks to the 37th U.S. President, Richard Nixon, who established it with an executive order. It has since become a tradition followed by other emerging presidents to date, growing to incorporate different willing participants and featuring a variety of projects and events that span throughout the week. The National Volunteer Week is organized by the U.S. organization — Points of Light Foundation whose mission is “to inspire, equip, and mobilize people to take actions that change the world” and Volunteering Canada — a charity initiative that provides expertise on volunteerism with the lens on increasing participation and quality of volunteer experiences.

The Points of Light Foundation’s formation was inspired by President George H.W. Bush’s January 1989 rousing speech to the nation and volunteers, calling on them to become “a thousand points of light.” The Points of Light Foundation was created in 1990, while Volunteer Canada, established in 1977, draws from the establishment of the National Volunteer Week in 1943 to recognize the contributions of women on the Home Front during World War II. It aims to provide national leadership and expertise on volunteer engagement, to increase the participation, quality, and diversity of volunteer efforts.

National Volunteer Week timeline

1688
The First Voluntary Agency in Canada

Following the great fire that ravaged the city of Québec, the ‘Bureau des pauvres,' is powered by a group of volunteers and donations from the community and provides relief to the vulnerable

1850
Harriet Tubman Risks Her Life for Others

Leader in the Abolitionist movement Harriet Tubman leads hundreds of enslaved Blacks to freedom.

1851
The Y.M.C.A. Starts in the U.S.

The community-focused Young Men's Christian Association (Y.M.C.A.) makes its way to the U.S.

1865
The Salvation Army is Founded

In 1865, Salvation Army, formally known as Christian Mission, is founded by evangelist William Booth in London to help the needy.

1985
The International Volunteer Day Starts

International Volunteer Day (I.V.D.) is launched by the United Nations.

1989
The Seeds for Point of Light

President George H.W. Bush’s inaugural address leads to the birth of the nonprofit organization to encourage and empower the spirit of service.

1993
The National and Community Service Trust Act

President Bill Clinton signs this Act which lays the foundation for the founding of AmeriCorps — a national service program that fosters civic duties and addresses some of the country's most pressing challenges.

2003
The President’s Volunteer Service Award

This Award is established to recognize the important role that volunteers play in building the U.S.

National Volunteer Week FAQs

When is International Volunteer Day?

The day is marked on December 5 every year.

Is there a National Volunteer Month?

In the U.S., the month of April is regarded as National Volunteer Month.

Which organization has the highest number of volunteers in the world?

Service Civil International stands as one of the biggest volunteer organizations.

How to Observe National Volunteer Week

  1. Get involved

    Do more than applaud; let your impact be felt. One look around your community, and you find various ways in which you can lend your support.

  2. Spread the word

    Volunteers are often overworked, so there's always a need for more people. Be a part of the movement to call on more volunteers by using your social media handles to send the message out

  3. Say thank you

    Appreciating volunteers goes a long way to making them feel good about their impact and driving them to do more. You could do personalized gifts, host an appreciation gala, write a note, email, or thank them in person.

5 Facts About Volunteering

  1. Volunteering peaked during the Great Depression

    During the 1930s, the U.S. launched a large-scale coordinated volunteer effort to assist the millions of hungry, homeless, and unemployed people via relief efforts.

  2. There’s a ‘Year of the Volunteer’

    The year 2001 is proclaimed as the International Year of Volunteers (I.Y.V.) by the United Nations General Assembly.

  3. Volunteers have helped in deeply tragic events

    Hurricane Katrina, Haiti's deadly earthquake, Indian Ocean earthquake, and tsunami; volunteers have been there through it all. Theirs is the face you see during the most trying times, offering help and assisting with disaster relief and recovery.

  4. The ‘United We Serve’ campaign

    President Barack and Michelle Obama announced this campaign, calling for more engagement in service.

  5. Value of volunteer hour boost

    In 2020, as a result of the pandemic, the value of a volunteer hour witnessed an almost 5% boost.

Why National Volunteer Week is Important

  1. Volunteering makes us feel great

    Giving back to the community, and helping others makes us feel empowered, goal-driven, and fulfilled. We feel happier, self-confident, and embrace a more positive outlook, ushering in even greater accomplishments.

  2. Benefits are attached

    Service is about helping others, but it also comes with benefits for service. New skills, increased social interaction, self-esteem boost, recognition, awards, and a whole lot more.

  3. It improves lives

    Our world has been presented with incredible challenges. We are grateful for the lifesaving, immeasurable, selfless, and tireless service of volunteers. We have been able to rebuild a more equitable society, securing the future.

National Volunteer Week dates

YearDateDay
2022April 17Sunday
2023April 16Sunday
2024April 21Sunday
2025April 20Sunday
2026April 19Sunday

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