November 6, 2013

IAVE World Youth Summit November 3-5, 2011


Nearly 900 youth from all over the world celebrated the 2nd World Summit for Youth Volunteering November 3-5 in Barranquilla, Colombia. Attendees from almost 50 different countries and 29 of the 32 departments states in Colombia were represented.

The Summit kicked off with pre-activities on November 2. More than 300 volunteers traveled to the community of Manatí in the southern part of Atlántico state – an area that was heavily impacted by some of the worst flooding in Colombian history last winter. Volunteers helped to run a health project and gather clothing in addition to activities designed to boost the spirits of beleaguered residents.

Another group of Summit attendees spent that day in the Corporate Youth Volunteer Roundtable. Sam Santiago of American Airlines and a member of the IAVE board of directors facilitated the session that offered a diverse group of organizations the opportunity to talk about their methods of using volunteering as a tool to engage employees in meaningful service to their communities.

The Summit kicked off in full on the morning of November 3, with the presence of Colombian government leaders, UNINORTE officials, and IAVE board members. Mark Molloy, an IAVE Youth Board member, talked about the first world summit in 2001 and the path leading up to this year’s celebration. The day’s keynote speaker was Hugh Evans, CEO of the Global Poverty Project, whose message set an inspiring and exiting tone that lasted for the whole of the event.

Following an afternoon of breakout panels and working groups, participants caught Caribbean fever and erupted in a conga line during a performance of typical Colombian music.

A major highlight of the Summit was the speech of Michael Teoh who won an international competition titled “Your Big Year” out of more than 60,000 applicants, earning the right to travel around the globe as a volunteer.

That evening, in a flurry of green balloons, Partners of the Americas, IAVE and UNINORTE launched a new initiative called RED2021, which aims to unite young volunteers the world over to share their service commitments and support each other through the exchange of resources.

The 2nd World Summit benefitted greatly from the sponsorship support of American Airlines, Motorola Mobility Foundation, State Street Bank, and UPS, all members of IAVE’s Global Corporate Volunteer Council (GCVC). Also supporting the Summit were various entities of the Colombian government, along with United Nations Volunteers, international student organizations like AIESEC, and numerous others.

[By Mark Molloy]

Ten years ago this month, as a 16 year old, I went on a journey from Scotland in the United Kingdom to Tokyo in Japan. That journey changed my life forever and has made me the person I am today.

That journey was as a result of me being selected to represent Scotland at the IAVE World Youth Volunteer Summit that took place in December 2001 to close the International Year of the Volunteer.

That journey changed my outlook on life and changed what I was about and my views of the world. It resulted in me having a globalist view of the world that brings me here to Barranquilla in Colombia 10 years later. I am certain that I would not have had that view if I hadn’t had the opportunity to connect with other similar and likeminded volunteers from different countries.

This is the true difference global meetings of young people have – they change your life.

2001 was designated by the United Nations as the UN International Year of the Volunteer (IYV). During this time, leading up to and during the year, the importance of youth volunteering grew globally.

At the IAVE World Conference which kicked off IYV, the first day was dedicated to engaging youth in a conversation about youth volunteering and officially launched “IAVE Youth.”

Through a partnership with IAVE Japan, the 1st World Youth Volunteer Summit was held in Tokyo, Japan in December 2001. This event brought together over 1200 young volunteers from across the world to discuss, debate and plan ahead how youth could change the world for the better, using volunteering as a positive catalyst for change.

The youth summit produced a declaration that was agreed and signed by all 1200 young people attending. The declaration, which is similar to other youth declarations at subsequent IAVE youth conferences, read:

“This year in Japan we celebrate more than just the coming together of youths with a passion for volunteering and service. This summit has special significance as it closes the United Nations International Year Of the Volunteer. It is significant that it is a youth event that is closing the year.

Today all 1200 of us from over 50 countries have gathered and discussed the challenges we have and looked together as global community at how we overcome these.

  • The problems that plague us today cannot be solved by the solitary acts of a single national or individual and must instead be tackled together as global community 
  • We must strive to connect with people from all around the world and work ion unison as global body of volunteers 
  • We must work toward the millennium development goals and ensure people know the importance of meeting these. 
  • In order to change the world we must have the view that ser vice is a long term commitment and initiate change that is sustainable. 
  • The young volunteers of this Summit challenged the United Nations, IAVE and other global leaders to continue to work tirelessly in the cause of young volunteers. 
  • Together as global leaders along with us as the youth of today and the youth of the future let us change the world together.”

To create a legacy from the 1st World Youth Summit and take forward a youth volunteering component, the IAVE Board dedicated two board seats to youth members . These positions on the IAVE Board of Directors have equal status to all other board positions. These board members had a mandate to advance the youth volunteering agenda worldwide.

2002 was the beginning of an IAVE Youth Volunteer Conference being included as part of each IAVE world conference in Seoul, Barcelona, Delhi, Panama and Singapore.

At the IAVE board meeting in Singapore the board re-affirmed its commitment to youth volunteering as a key priority area for the organization and established a task group comprising of board members and staff to develop a proposal on the way forward for the youth component of IAVE.

Today as we sit here in Colombia as a group of young people volunteers we have a constant challenge to get the value of youth volunteering recognized and for people to start seeing the status of youth volunteering as a sustainable service and solution to some of the world problems.

Its important we work together to build a new and better future for youth volunteering at the heart of our overall vision for young people globally.

In the current climate its important that we also become each other’s critical friend. The quality of youth volunteering is patchy and not only because of inadequate resources. We have to raise standards of individual and organizational performance. We must ensure that opportunities to serve are relevant to the needs and preferences of today’s young people. We must seize the opportunities presented by the development of a new youth vision within IAVE and the developments globally to reassert the value and status of youth volunteering.

Youth volunteers are not the victims of change. By their very nature they should be the vanguard of change.

Since coming to IAVE I have witnessed at first hand how quality youth volunteering in different countries is making a real difference to the lives of young people in many parts of the world

Youth volunteering is very important to me. Throughout my life I have seen the difference that high quality youth volunteering can make to young people and communities. I am a product of youth volunteering and of IAVE, where I was actively involved from a young age. I can clearly articulate how being involved in IAVE has got me to where I am today.

I would ask that during this Summit you get out of your comfort zone and get to know other people – speak to people you wouldn’t normally speak to. I am proud to say that if you do that, you can make friends for life and have truly global connections that will make a huge difference to your life in the many years ahead as it has done to my life.

Our hosts here in Barranquilla have given us the platform to make those connections so please use this opportunity so that some of you will be in the position I am in now where you can attend the 3rd Global Youth Summit in 2021!


Nothing speaks more profoundly than the voices of those young people who have made volunteering an integral part of there lives. Here are comments from three participants at the Summit.

Ismail Abu Arafeh - Palestine

Please allow me to express my sincere gratitude [for the opportunity] to participate in the World Summit on Volunteerism early this month. Immediately after the World Summit, I attended a youth regional conference organized by USAID, and it was amazing to see the potential and spirit of the participants, especially with the ongoing Arab Spring in the region.

I am now back in Palestine, re-adapting to the work flow after three weeks being abroad. I am delighted that I had the chance to participate in the World Summit in Colombia, with an issue that is dear to me and I am passionate about. I think the summit was a great event to share experiences, ideas, and recommendations that advance volunteerism worldwide.

I was very happy to meet youngsters from around the globe, and to listen about their experiences in volunteerism, what works well and what challenges they faced. It is very interesting that, despite cultural and social differences between countries, the issues facing youth volunteerism are similar to a large extent. When I gave my presentation about the Youth Shadow Local Councils, I was happy to hear from peers that while the circumstances and political conditions are different in Palestine, the challenges I raised about promoting youth volunteerism are the same from their experiences.

I would love to remain connected with IAVE, and potentially establish or at least promote its work in Palestine. I hope we remain in touch with the hope to advance volunteerism and active youth engagement worldwide!

Phoebe Powell – Communications Coordinator, Volunteer Canada

Walking into a room packed with more than 800 young people from across the globe is an overwhelming experience. People run around, making introductions and claiming seats. Others shout to friends in a variety of languages, and the excitement is palpable.

When I first walked into the World Youth Summit on Volunteering in Barranquilla, Colombia, I knew none of the young people gathered to discuss youth volunteerism. By the end of the three-day conference, I had spoken with dozens of young people from around the world who shared the challenges and triumphs they’d experienced as volunteers, and discussed their own ideas for getting more youth engaged in communities worldwide.

The theme of the Summit was You Make it Happen – an empowering message of the impact youth can have on the health and well-being of society. Speakers stressed that all types of volunteer involvement are meaningful and necessary. Youth have a wide range of motivations, interests, and skills that affect their level of engagement as volunteers. It’s important to let young people know that all types of volunteering are valuable and all contributions make a difference. From signing and promoting online petitions to adopting a leadership role within organizational governance, volunteering helps create healthy communities.

Summit speakers also stated that youth shouldn’t feel the need to sit back and wait for the perfect volunteer opportunity to present itself –if they have a great idea for a volunteer project or a specific cause they wish to support, young people should be able to develop volunteer roles for themselves.

Voluntary organizations, as much as possible, should work collaboratively with youth to create projects that serve both the organization’s mission and the youth’s interests and talents. Giving guidance and mentorship to youth can help set them on a path of lifelong engagement.

It was inspiring to see that despite differences of race, culture, and language, the value of volunteering is deeply entrenched in young people from all corners of the world. Youth from countries at various stages of development all stressed the importance of giving back to the community.

Everyone had a story to tell that highlighted the tremendous impact volunteers made, both locally and globally. At the Summit, youth shared with their peers from around the world how volunteers in their own countries addressed specific community problems. And they shared how their own learnings could be applied to similar problems in other nations.

This was a great strength of the World Youth Summit – the exchange of ideas and knowledge young people have gained through their own experiences. Throughout my three days in Barranquilla, I witnessed collaborative problem solving at its best. A young person from Ireland explained to someone from Colombia how youth leadership is fostered in her country. A girl from Russia shared how youth apathy is being combated in her community, and how this strategy could be applied to other settings.

Youth were actively addressing the barriers to their own engagement, and working in the spirit of collaboration to overcome challenges and promote volunteering on a global scale. The 800 young people gathered at the World Youth Summit truly were making it happen –they recognized the great potential of youth to solve the problems affecting global communities through volunteering, in order to create a more vibrant society for the future.