When we read about global challenges in our news feed — whether it’s COVID, rising costs, or the war in Ukraine — it can seem like individuals can’t tell the difference. But United Way, present in more than 40 countries and territories around the world, is inspired by the leadership of young people to tackle the toughest issues facing communities.
Young people around the world are volunteering through United Way, to improve lives through meaningful activities like tutoring, mentoring, creating care packages or advancing the COVID response. IIn the Netherlands, young people are part of a Ukrainian refugee program which offers English lessons to Ukrainian refugees aged 12 to 18. Netherlands United Way is behind the effort. In Germany, teenage volunteers play chess with young Ukrainian refugees to help them cope with the challenges of relocation. To support United Way Worldwide’s #UnitedForUkraine effort, click here.
In Hungary, high school students volunteered during COVID-19 to pack 600 bags of toiletries for underprivileged families, via United Way Hungary. In Romania, United Way Romania created Embedding a Better Future, a project that helps older students volunteer to help younger students with their homework. Last year, more than 100 young volunteer tutors helped 275 young pupils with reading, writing and mathematics (during the school year and the summer holidays). Older students serve as inspiring role models, experiencing first-hand the personal rewards of helping others, while younger students do better in school. And United Way Spain partners with the DÁDORIS Foundation and the Rafael del Pino Foundation on the mentorship program, where university students mentor young people on deepening social-emotional skills and life development.
In Vietnam, Vietnam United Way helps young students better understand how to protect the environment – powered by teen volunteers. Last month, some 2,000 children from two primary schools learned about the environment and how to protect it through games and other activities. They planted flowers and trees and made a collective pledge to protect their environment. Three other primary schools are following suit.
In Ghana, United Way Ghana youth volunteers help advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are part of the global plan for peace and prosperity adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. The 17 goals recognize that the ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand in hand – alongside strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality and boost economic growth, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests.
For example, 40 young adults in Ghana volunteer their time to help struggling readers inside and outside the classroom. It’s part of United Way’s children’s literacy program (which supports SDG5, or quality education), which last year improved student literacy levels by 40%.
“I come from this community and I know how much we struggled as children to get a quality education. I volunteered with the United Way Ghana Reading Oasis program which enables children in my community to access reading materials and learn to read,” said Aisha Mohammed, a 23-year-old volunteer. years of United Way Ghana. “I also volunteer on other projects within the community and it gives me great joy to see the impact I am helping to achieve.”
In many communities, United Way facilitates mentoring and networking activities for young adults that revolve around volunteering. In the Twin Cities, early and mid-career professionals gather regularly to share a “thought and a drink” with CEOs, thought leaders and each other. the Twin Cities United Way the event is packed with speakers, volunteer activities and, of course, a few pints. This group isn’t just about having fun and making connections; they also have an impact. Past events have included serving homeless adults dinner and filling kits with essential tableware items for community members.
Often, volunteering helps to acquire professional skills. In India, young people have been at the forefront of United Way’s health work and COVID response. Iram Ali, 21, is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University of Punjab, India. She is a researcher and volunteer in the field for United Way India program team. Iram is passionate about improving access to healthcare for all and has assisted United Way India with needs assessment studies, secondary research, report compilation and database compilation.
It is young people like them, who volunteer their time and talents to improve their communities, who inspire us all to #LiveUnited. Interested in joining us? Log in with your Local United Way to start today.