Our world faces significant troubles. Our atmosphere is heating up at an alarming rate. Our polar ice is melting. Some of our most beloved species are near extinction. People are enslaved in nearly every country in the world. More than half the world lives in dire poverty. Wars rage in more than ten countries. Millions still die from starvation, preventable diseases and so much more. We must take stock of the fact that these problems are not going away. And in many cases, they are actually getting worse.

When faced with this list of troubling issues, many will say to themselves: “Why do I have to listen to such things? It’s so sad and depressing. Why can’t we let the people who are supposed to fix these terrible problems just do their job? What does this have to do with me?”

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

As a humanitarian professional who has lived and worked in over 40 countries around the world, I have come to realize that if those of us who work on these issues could solve them, we would. But the fundamental truth is that we simply can’t. They go well beyond what a few thousand people around the world can fix. These crises require an army of united people – people who care.

And let’s face it, these problems belong to each and every one of us.  What is the justification for this statement?  When we are born into this world, we share our human experience with 7.6 billion other people. We share the air, the water, the resources, the animals, the plants, the food, the places and so much more. Every one of us benefits from what this world has to offer. But too many of us take this for granted – almost as a privilege or an entitlement. This is not right.

To respond to this situation, we need a way to engage, inspire and motivate ordinary people to accept some responsibility for this world and to do something – anything.  How will we do this?  We need a series of tools to make a compelling case for their voluntary involvement, including: public speeches, books and articles that inform and inspire, volunteer support programs and more. This approach will create a vast army of committed volunteers who will form a community of initiators, facilitators, motivators and responders.

I consider everyone who volunteers, no matter how big or small the gesture, to be heroic. There is heroism within each and every one of us. It is a voice of good, of righteousness, of action and of love. In today’s world, this voice too often lies dormant and receives very little nurturing. This heroic part of us can rise up and face the problems of the world head-on.

For the past thirty-five years, I have given countless presentations to help motivate people to step up and become involved in our world and its problems. While my own personal issue happens to be addressing human trafficking, my message to others is simple: find a cause that resonates with you and join the fight.  Understanding which issue is closest to our heart is an essential first step. Maybe a person wants to fight global warming, address injustice, reduce poverty or stop bullying. From experience, we all know that we tend to be more motivated and committed to work on things that are more important to us.

What prevents most of us from getting involved? There are two factors.  First, many people feel doubt. I often hear people ask: “What could I possibly do to help? I am just one person. What difference could I make?” If only one person were to step up, then I’d agree that probably not much could be expected. But if 10 million people stepped up and offered their small, compassionate gestures, imagine the impact. Success in this area is a numbers game.  Second, there are few mechanisms in place to help a person down the path to acting.

As a set of core values related to volunteerism, I believe that collective actions have the greatest chance of impact – and that an army of ordinary people working together can change the world. I believe that for change to happen, we need to unite different types of people – all sharing their unique experience and skills together. I believe in collaboration because I know that we are stronger when we work together as a community rather than passing the buck to a handful of paid professionals. I feel inspired to act because I know this work is urgent—and that it affects us all in one way, shape or form. Finally, I believe in harnessing people-power, because I know that it is individual decisions that have the greatest impact on helping to heal our world.

Photo by ray sangga kusuma on Unsplash

Yes, our world is in trouble, but we don’t have to passively accept this reality.  Our world has the capacity to heal more people, feed more people, educate more people, resolve international and community issues, and help others when a disaster or conflict arises. When society accepts this challenge to address our issues and problems, incredible solutions often follow.

The Mekong Club offers a talk related to the importance of volunteerism entitled “Be the Hero: Be the Change.” This talk reminds us that we can all be the everyday heroes offering this hope. From the first story, this presentation moves an audience’s heart by offering compelling anecdotes related to the fight against human trafficking and other social issues, it offers practical wisdom and rich lessons, and outlines a path forward for voluntary action. Through this process, the training compels each of us to examine our own potential and purpose in life by looking at how our lives could serve others.  The presentation inspires corporate teams to begin their personal journey of contribution to the greater good through many practical examples of heroic actions that anyone can undertake.  For more information, or if you would like to volunteer with us,  please contact CEO, Matt Friedman at [email protected].

Author – Matthew Friedman