International Volunteer Day 2023

11 minutes read
Sinakho Dhlamini
Content Marketing Specialist
How Top Employers Institute's Employees are Contributing to their Communities and the Power of Collective Action

International Volunteer Day is a United Nations recognised day to acknowledge volunteers worldwide. It is a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts, share their values, and promote their work among their communities, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), United Nations agencies, government authorities and the private sector. 

This years’ theme is 'the power of collective action: if everyone did', which recognises the enormous renewable resource for social, economic, and environmental problem-solving throughout the world.  

At Top Employers, we recognise our employees’ volunteering efforts and experiences through our Volunteer Time-Off Programme, which forms part of our employee benefits. 

Top Employers Institute's Volunteer Time Off Programme 

Top Employers Institute offers a Volunteer Time Off Programme as part of our employee benefits. All full-time and part-time employees can volunteer up to 16 hours (two working days) per calendar year at non-profit charitable organisations or other volunteer activities. This time is separate to any other benefits such as sick leave and holidays.  

The purpose of the Top Employers Institute Volunteer Time Off Programme is to: 

  • Support activities that enhance and serve the communities in which we live and work. 
  • Address issues that impact the quality of life. 

Our Volunteer Time Off Programme intends to create community engagement opportunities that are meaningful and purposeful and help those in need. At the same time, we recognise that participating in these activities can enrich and inspire employees beyond their day-to-day work. 'Community' does not only encompass employee's local community but also a global perspective, as they are not limited to volunteering only in their immediate area.  

So, what kind of volunteering opportunities have Top Employers Institute employees engaged in? 

How our People Have Contributed to their Communities 

We wanted to recognise how our employees utilised our Volunteer Time Off Programme in 2023 by asking them to share their thoughts about volunteering, what they've been up to and any other thoughts they wanted to share on this day. Read their engaging thoughts on the work they have done and volunteering in general below: 

Volunteering at the Atlanta Food Bank with the America's Team from Trevor Bogan, the Regional Director of Americas 

On August 8, 2023, Team Americas had the pleasure of volunteering at the Atlanta Food Bank. Volunteering is important to me because it's always a great feeling when you can support others who don't have the same opportunities/circumstances as I have. My purpose in life is to help when people are in need, and acts of kindness can go a long way to bring joy to someone's life.   

The team volunteered at the Atlanta Food Bank because Atlanta is our US Team hub for meetings/training, and we wanted to support the Atlanta community. The Atlanta Food Bank distributes over 8 million meals across Atlanta and North Georgia. We were alarmed to learn that 1 in 10 Americans are food insecure, and because of this, we wanted to give our time and energy to make a positive impact. Team Americas made a considerable contribution by sorting and packing nearly 4 500 Kg of food, which equates to 8,300 meals.  

I love that Top Employers Institute allows us these volunteer hours to help with any cause that is important to us. We are a purposeful organisation, and we get the opportunity to live by that and support organisations that we're passionate about. We should all strive for acts of kindness, as they put smiles on a people's faces and give us positive energy too. Plus, we never know if we might be the person needing support in the future.  

Volunteering with the Amsterdam Neighbour Network with Jonas van Wees, HR Auditor 

To start, I’m part of the Amsterdam Neighbor Network, helping neighbours in need, which I joined during the COVID craziness. At the moment, I go for walks with Piet, an 83-year-old who can't go out much by himself because his wife is in a wheelchair, and he has dementia. Even though he has dementia, he lights up and shares memories when he recognises something. It's my way of bringing joy to older people in my neighbourhood. 

Next, I volunteered at the Amsterdam marathon. I did doping control for an individual elite runner and helped distribute medals, bananas, and drinks to all finishers. Considering I usually run it, it was an excellent behind-the-scenes perspective of the race. Talk about a sense of service! 

Lastly, I'm part of the !Woon energy coach network. I visit homes which struggle with high energy costs due to poor insulation. I give advice and sometimes install energy-efficient materials such as draft strips. It's win-win: helping people cut costs and be more eco-friendly and raise awareness about energy consumption. 

All these experiences make me feel connected to the small communities around my city, Amsterdam. Shoutout to Top Employers Institute for encouraging us to spend two days a year giving back. It's not just about volunteering; it's about creating a culture of kindness, service, and caring for others, which is especially important now. 

Volunteering rocks because it's not just about helping communities and causes; it's about positively impacting individuals. It's like sprinkling goodness in the world, one small act at a time and improving the world (of work) in a small, meaningful way! 

Volunteering in the Communities Close to Home with Theo van der Maaden, Sales Analyst 

For me, volunteering is a way to give back to the community I live in. We take a lot of things in life for granted but often fail to recognise that a lot of our world runs on the selfless work done by others. The volunteering scheme offered by Top Employers is a fantastic way for us to explore where we want to invest our time and effort. 

For my time off, I helped on three occasions: 

  1. Beach cleaning in Bloemendaal with the Revenue Operations team: We all love seeing and enjoying a clean beach, but achieving it takes work. What looks to be a lovely stretch of sand at first is often littered with microplastics and other rubbish. It is annoying for visitors and dangerous for animals who may mistake trash for food. We helped make the beach cleaner so that both people and wildlife could benefit. 
  2. Volunteering for Alle Kleuren Oost Pride Fest 2023: Amsterdam Oost is an incredibly diverse and multicultural area with people from all nationalities, social backgrounds, religions and persuasions. Alle Kleuren Oost works on breaking down barriers and celebrating our diversity throughout the year. One of their biggest parties is the annual celebration on Javaplein that happens during Amsterdam Pride Week. It is not limited to the LGTBQI+ community; everyone is invited. Alle Kleuren Oost Pride Fest is an event I enjoy, and this year, I was one of the volunteers making it all happen throughout the day. 
  3. Help save the Albufera nature reserve: Together with the ITES sales team, I helped plant native lily plants in the Albufera wetlands near Valencia to help strengthen the natural beauty of the wetlands and prevent erosion. The wetlands are also used for rice cultivation, and the irrigation canals are vital to keep the landscape intact. 

All three activities were different, but they are all close to my heart. I love going for long walks and hikes, and a clean environment is something we should all be able to enjoy. As for the Pride activity, seeing people from all backgrounds come together and embrace diversity & inclusion is fantastic! 

Volunteering at Mount Holyoke with Tory De Bassio, Research and Content Writer 

Volunteering has always been essential to my life, alongside hobbies, work and rest. Over the years, I have volunteered to help causes meaningful to me: assisting internationals here in The Netherlands, presenting strong CVs for gaining employment, fostering cats and assisting in animal shelters, helping people learn English in the States, and lastly, helping raise funds for and plan fun activities at an elderly home in the Bronx. One volunteering project that has stayed consistent, however, across cities, countries, jobs and life changes has been the work I've done for my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, a women's college in the United States that is gender diverse.  

I don't remember exactly when I started volunteering at the Admissions Office there, as it has varied in intensity over the last (at least) 12 years I've been helping out. On the last volunteer day, taken from Top Employers Institute, I had an informal informational interview with a prospective international student. I sent several emails as part of a broader campaign for prospective students.  

Volunteering for a historic all women's college is personally meaningful to me. I believe in an inclusive environment for students of all backgrounds, genders, countries, and socio-economic classes. This type of environment, of equality and traditionally supporting women's rise in STEM professions and female leadership roles, is the environment I also hope to help promote and foster at Top Employers Institute. Being in the "real world", where men often dominate senior roles and more unapologetically take up space in a corporate office, I look back at my own time as an undergraduate with new appreciation. I now value it as a safe and supportive space to grow my confidence and learn what diversity could look like. Just as I'd like to do in HR and at Top Employers Institute, I want to help other women rise academically and professionally to be as successful as possible.  

Volunteering at ONCE in Spain with Angela Martin, Senior Finance Operations Specialist 

Volunteer time is the perfect time to "Be the change you want to see in the world". We need to give back to the community and nature. Yes, back, as we are taking so much from them. The opportunity that Top Employers Institute gives me to explore the world of volunteering is a gift. It gives you the time, but it also gives you the motivation. Come on! The company is giving you free time to help! How could you not use it? And, of course, once you start volunteering, you won't stop when the free hours are over. You will keep doing it in your free time. So, it is not only the time that matters but the push. VTO is a great initiative that can help to make the world better. 

This year, I am volunteering with ONCE (a Spanish organisation for blind people). I visit a woman whose sight is diminishing and take her for walks. On hot or cold days, we stay in her living room, chatting. Or I might accompany her to the organisation to get her eyes tested. It must be difficult getting older and living alone, and not being able to do the things you used to love doing – such as painting and reading. So, my time here is incredibly rewarding, and her smile when she sees me makes my day.  

But of course, there is time for more! I love nature, and when my manager proposed to do a volunteer time together, I offered to organise it. We went to the "Albufera" with the local foundation Assut (which works for the sustainability of the Mediterranean littorals) to plant lilies in the irrigation canals surrounding the rice fields. This increases birds' habitats, which in turn also helps other animals and vegetation. It’s a win-win situation for farmers and the environment, as the farmers can use these lilies as bioindicators. It was a lovely gathering; there were 22 people, and we planted almost 500 lilies!!  

Volunteering at Hallo Nachbar with the DACH Team  

We organised two programmes on our VTO Day in cooperation with NGOs. The morning was a joint Rhine clean-up. Afterwards, we took the group to "Hallo Nachbar" and worked with the helpers to prepare the senior citizens' café. Till even contributed a quiz to the entertainment, and at the end, we all had dinner together. 

Till Jansen, Bronwen Davies, Corinna Adams, Britta Lademann, Lisa, Marleen, Anton Grünwald, Brian Klauenberg and Joe Streckel 

Volunteering at Lighthouse Summer Camp with Claire Matthews, Global Account Manager 

Lighthouse is a holiday week for children, run by volunteers from local churches in Buckinghamshire, UK. It has been running since 1988 and has spread to other areas across the UK. Their mission is to extend Lighthouse nationwide.  

Lighthouse is free for children to attend, as they firmly believe that no child should miss out for financial reasons. They rely on volunteers to coordinate the event each year. The camp focuses on treating others well, and the rules around safeguarding are strong. Mental health and wellbeing are at the forefront, particularly with the large group of teenagers involved. 

My mum has been volunteering since it started, and my daughter attended when she was young and then became a volunteer herself. I was encouraged to commit myself to the whole week when Top Employers Institute introduced the Volunteer Time Off initiative.  

My role as a volunteer this year was to look after the "Toddlers" room, which involved play, singing, story time, refreshments, setting up the activities, and clearing up at the end of the day. When I arrived, they told me they didn't have a room leader and asked if I could do it. It was terrifying. Luckily, being a sales professional, I acted as if I was completely calm and able to come up with the resources required. The feedback from the children and parents made it so worthwhile.  

On the weekend before and after the camp, they have sessions where everyone gets together, from babies to volunteers in their 80's. They have lots of singing and activities that everyone joins in with. The best thing I saw was the teenagers being comfortable and not self-conscious. They are just genuinely enjoying themselves. Seeing the energy and passion of the volunteers in charge, the talent and drive to do the right thing, and treat each other with respect and care was incredible. I left the week full of joy, songs and with my name down on the list for next year! 


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International Volunteer Day 2023

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