As we read about the world’s challenges in our news feed – whether that’s COVID, or rising costs or the war in Ukraine – it can seem like individuals can’t make a difference. But United Way, which is in 40+ countries and territories worldwide, is inspired by the leadership that young people are showing in tackling the toughest issues facing communities.
In the Netherlands, young people are part of a Ukrainian refugee response program that’s offering English lessons to Ukrainian refugees between 12 and 18 years old. In Germany, teen volunteers play chess with young Ukrainian refugees, to help them cope with the challenges of relocation. In both cases, United Way of the Netherlands is behind the effort. (To support United Way Worldwide’s #UnitedForUkraine effort, click here.)
All over the world, young people are volunteering through United Way, to make life better through meaningful activities like tutoring, mentoring, creating care packages or advancing COVID response.
In Hungary, high school students volunteered during COVID-19 to pack 600 bags of toiletries for disadvantaged families, through United Way Hungary. In Romania, United Way Romania created Nesting a Brighter Future, a project that helps older students volunteer to help younger students do their homework. Last year, 100+ young volunteer tutors helped 275 young students in reading, writing, and math (during the school year and summer vacation) The older students serve as inspiring role models, finding out first-hand about the personal rewards of helping others, while the younger ones do better in school.
In Spain, United Way Spain partners with DÁDORIS Foundation and Rafael del Pino Foundation on The Mentoring Program, where university students mentor youth on deepening social-emotional skills and life development. And in Vietnam, United Way Vietnam is helping young students better understand how to protect the environment – powered by teen volunteers. Last month, some 2,000 children in two primary schools learn about the environment and how to protect it through games and other activities. They planted flowers and trees, and made a collective promise to protect their environment. Three more primary schools are following suit.
United Way Ghana’s youth volunteers are helping drive progress in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), part of the global blueprint for peace and prosperity adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015. The 17 goals recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all 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, both in and out of the classroom. This is part of United Way’s childhood literacy program (which supports SDG5, or quality education), which last year improved the students’ literacy levels by 40 percent. “I come from this community and know how we struggled as children to get quality education. I offered myself to volunteer on the United Way Ghana Reading Oasis program that allows for children in my community to access reading material and taught how to read,” said Aisha Mohammed, a 23-year-old United Way Ghana volunteer. “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 India, young people have been at the forefront of United Way’s health care work and COVID response. Iram Ali, 21, is pursuing a Master’s degree in public health from Punjab University, India. She is a research and field volunteer for United Way India’s program team. Iram is passionate about improving the access to healthcare for all and has been assisting United Way India with need assessment studies, secondary research, report compilation and database collation.
It’s young people like this, volunteering their time and talents to make their communities better, who inspire all of us to #Live United. Interested in joining us? Connect with your local United Way to get started today.
Main photo of youth volunteer in Romania was provided by United Way Romania.