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Why International Volunteering Matters Now More Than Ever

1) Because the pandemic undid progress toward poverty alleviation.

Before the pandemic, more people experienced a higher quality of life than ever before. But the pandemic changed everything. People worldwide have suffered in many ways, from dying because of a lack of a supply of ventilators, surviving a painful illness for a long time, grieving the loss of loved ones, to children missing out on an education, and more. This has directly translated to a drop in quality of life, a rise in poverty, and we cannot say, at this moment in time, that statistically, more people in the world are better off than ever before.

How can international volunteers help get us all back on track?

· Advocate for equity. -> We have an opportunity to collectively prioritize equity in future vaccine campaigns in order to not repeat the pandemic occurrence of richer countries receiving vaccines quicker than everyone else.

· Contribute to efforts to establish safety nets for the most vulnerable. -> One hard lesson we learned is that everyone needs a safety net that includes unemployment insurance, a livable wage, and quality free medical care. This would be particularly crucial for all the workers around the world who work informally.

· Start helping in areas of medical aid, building stronger incomes, & sustainable efforts to end hunger. -> For instance, individuals who had escaped poverty may have become unemployed and fallen back into hard times in the last few years. Communities in various places may not have the medical care they need to handle surges in cases. Many people need food aid as budgets have tightened.


2) There are other unmet needs that volunteers can uniquely help with.

Even though the world saw poverty reduced more than ever before the pandemic, more progress still needs to be made to reach zero poverty. 652 million people lived under the poverty line of $1.90 a day in 2018, according to the World Bank. There are currently unmet needs, such as hunger and healthcare, that have not been fully addressed by the international community and international volunteers. In fact, the United Nations created the Sustainable Development Goals to tackle these gaps and raise awareness of what still needs to be done, but these are not necessarily on track to be met by 2030.

How can international volunteers jump into these spaces?

Sometimes, several major unmet needs intersect among a population or in a certain situation. International volunteers can apply specific strategies when this occurs.

· International volunteers can work with one community at a time to help meet all of the intersecting needs at the same time.

· Or, volunteers can devote themselves to one major need that people have around the world and partner with others that work on other corresponding needs to reduce them one by one.

The goal, in either instance, would be to improve quality of life and help with anything else people may need. This can only be achieved if volunteers think about long-term sustainability plans so the gains will be permanent.

To learn more, please check out my book, The New International Volunteer: A Hands-On Guide to Sustainable & Inclusive Development, available here.

1) Jhingan, Rajit, et al. “Coping with Shortage of Ventilators in COVID-19 Pandemic: Indian Context and Exploring Effective Options in Countries with Limited Healthcare Resources.” Clinmed Journals International Library, International Archives of Public Health and Community Medicine, 25 May 2020,
2) “Covid-19: Schools for More than 168 Million Children Globally Have Been Completely Closed for Almost a Full Year, Says UNICEF.” UNICEF, 2 Mar. 2021,
3) “Covid-19 to Add as Many as 150 Million Extreme Poor by 2021.” The World Bank, 7 Oct. 2020,
4) “WHO Chief ‘Appalled’ by Rich Nations' COVID Vaccine Booster Talk with so Many Unvaccinated around the World.” CBS News, 9 Sept. 2021,
5) “Poverty & Inequality Portal.” World Bank, World Bank,

The opinions in this article are my own.
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