Baby boomers pro­jected as source of global vol­un­teers

The Washington Times Weekly - - From Page One - By Ch­eryl Wet­zstein

Vol­un­teer agen­cies were urged Dec. 5 to tap into the pool of ag­ing and re­tir­ing baby boomers at a fo­rum on in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teerism at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

“There are a lot of for­mer rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies who are re­tir­ing in their 50s and have tremen­dous skill sets to of­fer,” said Sen. Norm Cole­man, Min­nesota Repub­li­can, “and they want to make the most of the sec­ond half of their longer life spans.”

He cited the ex­hor­ta­tion of Pres­i­dent Kennedy’s in­au­gu­ral ad­dress: “Ask not what your coun­try can do for you; ask what you can do for your coun­try.”

The sen­a­tor ex­horted busi­ness firms to ex­pand their sup­port and “shared vi­sion” for vol­un­teerism and urged Congress to in­crease fund­ing for gov­ern­ment vol­un­teer pro­grams, such as the Peace Corps.

Rep. James T. Walsh, New York Repub­li­can and for­mer Peace Corps vol­un­teer to Nepal, voiced sim­i­lar sen­ti­ment.

“There is a deep vein in our coun­try for vol­un­teerism.”

The goal of the Brook­ings ini- tia­tive is to dou­ble in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teerism in three years, from 50,000 peo­ple to 100,000 peo­ple. Mar­garet Sher­raden, re­searcher at the Cen­ter for So­cial De­vel­op­ment at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St. Louis, said rel­a­tively lit­tle is known about in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teerism.

Ac­cord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity cen­ter, nearly 1 mil­lion Amer­i­cans vol­un­teered abroad at least once in 2005, most of them for two weeks or less.

Young peo­ple ages 15 to 24 were the most fre­quent in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teers, fol­lowed by those ages 35 to 44. Top volun- teer ac­tiv­i­ties in­cluded teach­ing; men­tor­ing youth; gen­eral la­bor; fundrais­ing; work­ing with food, cloth­ing or crafts; and pro­vid­ing pro­fes­sional or man­age­ment as­sis­tance.

“I be­lieve Amer­i­cans want to do a lot more [in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teer­ing], but they need to be pointed in the right di­rec­tion,” said Robert Mal­lett, pres­i­dent of Pfizer Foun­da­tion.

Gov­ern­ment, non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions, busi­nesses and non­profit agen­cies can’t im­prove qual­ity of life for oth­ers by them­selves, but can ac­com­plish a lot if they do so as part­ners.

“Thou­sands of peo­ple work­ing for com­pa­nies like mine want to be agents of change,” Mr. Mal­lett said. “They have the skills. They have pas­sion. They have the moral com­pass, just like you. They only lack the se­cure op­por­tu­nity.”

Brook­ings plans an in­ter­na­tional vol­un­teerism con­fer­ence next spring, and for­mer Pres­i­dents Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Bill Clin­ton will be asked to par­tic­i­pate. If they do, said Robert Pas­tor, vice pres­i­dent for in­ter­na­tional af­fairs at Amer­i­can Univer­sity, a num­ber of univer­si­ties will join them.

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