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United Nations Online Volunteering Program

UN Volunteers operates a fast growing on-line volunteer program. It connects organizations involved in development to volunteers who can help them through online collaboration on the Internet.

Elise Bouvet explains that UNV operates a database where on-line volunteers register their interest and capabilities. A broad range of organizations approach UNV to find on-line volunteer help. UNV identifies the people from the database who best match the needs of the project, and connects them with the organization.

On-line volunteers do all kinds of tasks, ranging in complexity from translating a short text to building a web site. They generally never meet the people they are helping, but they can have a real impact on the projects they help.

Canadians are very active online volunteers. There is room for more, as the demand for volunteer services is growing fast. Most of the on-line volunteers are 35 to 50 years old, but the participation of people over 50 is growing rapidly, as their skills are in high demand.

The UNV perspective on on-line volunteering

Elise Bouvet feels that virtual volunteering is growing quickly because it is so flexible; volunteers can offer to work a few hours on a project, or they can several hours a day, whatever fits their schedule. Whereas other UN programs receive more applications to volunteer than they have assignments for, on-line volunteers are in high demand.

On-line volunteering is particularly attractive to people who have mobility limitations, or whose personal and family obligations limit their ability to volunteer out of the home.

Elise finds that participants can generally get a sense of the impact their participation has on the organization, even though they may be in different continents. Many of them come back to do more after they have finished their first project.

She suggests starting out by offering to work on a small project to get a feel for how on-line volunteering fits into your life.