By Allison Annette Foster, Vice President
Three Cheers for Volunteers!
Growing up in the United States, I learned early in life that volunteerism was not only honorable but expected. My family considered volunteering a duty to family, country, and community (both the global community and local community). My father coached our soccer games, giving two evenings a week to instill teamwork and good sportsmanship to a gaggle of young girls. As a business owner, he certainly had many other demands on his time. My mother served on our school board in our local government; she ran out the door every Wednesday night after cleaning dinner dishes to contribute to policy decisions and advocate for plans that would be inclusive and family-friendly. As a class, my schoolmates and I gave one Saturday each quarter to park clean-up campaigns when we picked up trash in public spaces.
My parents’ lesson to my siblings and me was: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” And they considered themselves very fortunate – both in abundance and paucity.
Now as an adult with my own family and professional demands, I realize how much effort it took for my parents to carve out time to give back and to make sure that their children would adopt the same sense of good citizenship and stewardship of the well-being of our world. What a labor of love! I am humbled to continue that tradition and assume that duty, whether it be ensuring that all have access to exercise their vote as a polling volunteer, providing the voice of women’s interests in our neighborhood citizen association, or teaching English and employment skills to refugees.
Working in global development, I am even more deeply humbled when I see the commitment and many hours of volunteer contribution that my colleagues in low-resourced environments and often high-risk situations provide to their communities.
I watched Grace sit with a pregnant couple in Zambia and convince them to purchase one small piece of liver during market day Tuesdays to ensure that the pregnant mother would have enough iron to facilitate a healthy pregnancy. I marveled at how well Aisha, only 17 years young and a recovered fistula patient, presented volunteer health talks to provide even younger girls in her ward with guidance on reproductive health and HIV prevention. I so much appreciated the commitment of my friend and champion Aarush in organizing other volunteer families in India to be at the ready with carts and donkeys and scooters to transfer women to hospitals in case of pregnancy complications.
I have learned from community volunteers in their training sessions, depended on them in implementing initiatives, and marveled at their determination to collect and report data even with limited resources and vast territories to cover.
Today, as the Vice President of WI-HER, I am proud to join my president, Dr. Taroub Faramand, and my colleagues and partners in celebrating volunteers of all ages in my own community and across the globe.
We thank you for your help and support and we celebrate the valuable contributions you give and the examples you set. We especially celebrate women who volunteer, because we know that you are juggling professional demands, home responsibilities, and children’s needs – and still find time to reach further still! And like my own parents, they feel responsible to give, and share that same humble sentiment, “To whom much has been given, much is expected.”
Three cheers for volunteers!