Lebanon is a country known for its particular lifestyle, always surprising first-time visitors. It's like if they expected to walk through ancient ruins and contemporary desolations, in a small country that is simply going by.
That is until they see our cities bubbling with life, arts, and activities, and the glitz and glamour of our lifestyle take their breath away. And they come to realize that, small, Lebanon isn't but in size. They can't get enough of it.
That's what we mostly hear of comments from those visiting us for the first time. We hear it at their departure and we hear it when mingling with them abroad.
However, we Lebanese know that there are places in our country where that glamour of ours doesn’t shine. Many of us tend to forget it or disregard it... or leave it on "other than us" to deal with it; that which is nonetheless part of us.
In fact, as per the UN State of the World’s Volunteerism Report 2018: The Thread that Binds, a very small amount of 3.7% of our people cares about giving back to the community or volunteering in aiding our country's third sector.
Some say there is no easy access to help, and others say that they would like to but they feel confused with what to choose exactly to participate in. Many others, let's face it, just don't care enough to get concerned.
For those among us who believe we, as individuals, can be part of the solution, the Volunteer Circle got us covered. They stand by the widely known motto of “what goes around comes back around”. This means exactly what is written- if you do good, goodness will come to you.
The Volunteer Circle is the first of its kind in Lebanon, an online platform of easy access to any wishing to choose a volunteering preference from a list of choices. It is always up to date with upcoming projects in need of volunteers.
With the various issues that Lebanon is enduring and the constant follow-up required on the efforts and projects tackling them, our participation as citizens is a must.
We might constantly complain about it all; however, like with any country in the world, and even the ones deemed very advanced, major issues do exist, some not less grave than ours, and citizens partake in the solution by volunteering or helping out.
They feel a strong sense of responsibility as citizens of their country to make it a better place and to ease it on others, and they do so by allocating their skills and some of their time.
The Volunteer Circle has seen to give that opportunity to our citizens, creating a space for all to choose where they can best allocate their given talents or their acquired skills and which project they prefer to help the most with
Co-founder Malak Yacout shared with me the real back story behind this platform, and I like to share it with you.
In 2015, she sought out to volunteer in organizations and tried to navigate her way through to find where her efforts could best fit. Failure to find, and eager to help with her skills those in need, she took herself and her skills abroad.
Upon her return, she decided that the sense of happiness she had experienced after giving back was unique and that the accessibility to such type of experience should be available to the people of her country.
The concept of a Lebanese online platform coordinating between projects and the public started to shape up in her mind.
Malak Yacout, who is a well-traveled AUB marketing graduate, teamed up with Nadine Makarem, who herself has an extensive experience working with the UN and local and international NGOs.
They started collaborating with almost all the NGO’s in Lebanon, creating that which was missing to their fellow citizens in Lebanon: The online platform coordinating between worthy causes and the public. Henceforth, The Volunteer Circle was born.
Both co-founders organized the collected data in the new platform, clearly set by sectors and locations, allowing the Lebanese of goodwill looking to help to have a clear view and complete description on each project and call-for-action.
That has helped many come to terms with what suits the goals of their heart and mind, and what they want to peruse.
Their main call is truly in their values: 'To enjoy volunteering and to dare to make a difference, to get active and shape a more holistic volunteer scene, to be real and committed in heart and mind, and to mindfully contribute to the opportunity that suits you.'
In that, one can only bloom at the personal level, exploring the best of oneself, while doing good. Volunteering is, in fact, a win-win situation.
Whatever personal agenda the volunteer might have, the outcome is always positive for both sides. Whether it's about mandatory community hours or just for one’s personal mental sense of fulfillment, the overall outcome is always a positive self-growth.
It is as it is, that is the call of our souls to team up with our fellow humans in their time of need. Nothing could be more fulfilling than abiding by our souls. You might want to give it a try if you haven't yet.
The Volunteer Circle is available for everyone. The sense of fulfillment is almost contagious that people are regularly joining the platform and studying what fits them and their time, all in order to help those in need, and contribute as they can to make their country a better place to live and co-exist with our fellow humans.
To the Volunteer Circle's founders and team, The961 salutes you! Keep it up!