Searching for clues and inspiration at the Global Volunteering Forum

Published: 2 December 2014 10:09 CET

By Chloe Tan, Singapore Red Cross

In the lead up to International Volunteer Day 2014, almost 200 Red Cross Red Crescent staff and volunteers from around the world came to Bangkok, Thailand, for the Global Volunteering Forum, The Difference.

Jointly organized by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Thai Red Cross Society, The Difference aims to tackle challenges facing volunteerism, and explore new approaches and avenues to actively and meaningfully engage volunteers now and the future.

“Over 185 participants have converged here in the centre of Southeast Asia from over 75 countries, coming from as far away as Guyana and the Indian Ocean Islands to tackle the challenges facing volunteering today,” said Matthias Schmale, IFRC Under Secretary General in his welcome remarks. “This is the time to unleash our creativity, find concrete solutions for action, and to identify ways in which we can become stronger around the globe.

“Volunteerism is at the heart of our organizational identity; who we are and what we are trying to be in the world.” Noting the challenges that volunteerism might face ahead due to changes in society, Mr Schmale affirmed the need to stay relevant and adaptable to the new environments, which is part of the conference’s agenda.

The four-day event was kickstarted with a ‘Race around Bangkok’ where participants followed a series of clues that led them to different locations in the city and were required to partake in an activity or challenge as a team before receiving the next clue.

In the following days, participants will be encouraged to share openly, collaborate and learn from one another through storytelling sessions, open space meetings and marketplace presentations.

“The race was exhausting, but we had a really great time. It was wonderful to go around Thailand, everyone was so kind and gracious,” said Stephanie Megad Boles, a participant from the American Red Cross. “I am very excited to learn from the forum. We are all coming together with such different viewpoints and experiences. The forum’s structure allows us to communicate openly, and hopefully we can build a strategy that will improve the volunteer experience.”

On International Volunteer Day – 5 December – the IFRC is calling for increased recognition of volunteers and the important, often life-saving, work that they carry out in their communities, and for them to receive better support and protection in the face of the growing risks they face.

For more information visit the Global Volunteering Forum 2014 website where you can access a live broadcast for specific sessions. Alternatively please visit the Red Cross Red Crescent Volunteers Facebook page or Global Volunteering Forum 2014 Storify page.