I am quite fond of celebrating and marking official days on the calendar. Each year, I observe National Ice Cream Day. It is the perfect excuse to consume and enjoy a scoop of my favorite ice cream flavor. International days of celebration are even more appealing. Just knowing that someone, somewhere in another country, is focused on the same issue or goals connects me to the world. In high school, passionate math educators paid tribute to International Pi Day on 3/14. As students, we were encouraged to bake and bring to school delicious pies to commemorate the mathematical constant. It was a great lesson in understanding the relevance and importance of pi. But by far one of my favorite international days of celebration is Global Youth Service Day. GYSD celebrated this year on April 20-22 unites youth throughout the world with the common goal and desire to engage youth in volunteer service. It is quite a powerful message to recognize youth volunteers around the world focusing on some of our many critical global challenges: helping people gain access to clean water, eradicating hunger, and improving literacy rates throughout the world.
Global Youth Service Day celebrates children and youth who are making a difference in their communities; breaking down barriers, tackling issues, strengthening communities and improving lives for others. For 24 years, Global Youth Service Day (GYSD) has been celebrated annually on the third weekend in April, when youth from around the world organize and gather to focus and celebrate volunteer service and service learning projects. Over 100 countries participate and mark this event to engage youth in volunteer service. GYSD is the largest annual international day that activates honors and recognizes youth volunteers.
As military dependents, my brother and I appreciated the generosity of our community when my dad was deployed. Friends, neighbors, and the kindness of strangers helped us get us through the long and challenging months of my dad's deployment. My brother and I wanted to pay it forward and find ways, as youth, that we could give back to support our community. We were both active in scouting and our religious school service projects, but we wanted to do more. Unfortunately, many nonprofit agencies required volunteers to be 18 years or older to volunteer on-site. We explored resources like Youth Service America and GenerationOn.org to identify ways that we could get involved in service learning. As we got older, through word of mouth we learned of opportunities for youth to volunteer on-site at a variety of nonprofit organizations in our community.
What can youth do? Organize a food drive at your school, gather gently used toys and books to donate to a shelter, host a car wash, and donate funds to a nonprofit. There are loads of ideas and resources at gysd.org. Volunteering teaches us that we are all responsible for the well-being of our communities. It is empowering to realize that youth around the world can and do make a positive impact through volunteer service. Global Youth Service Day is a day to celebrate and highlight the fact that you are never too young to start volunteering.