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Volunteer Now’s CEO attends IAVE Board

02 December 2013

Meeting in Oman and speaks at the Arab Regional Volunteering Conference.

iave logoI have been a member of the IAVE (International Association for Volunteer Effort) since 2010 and have just been reappointed for another three years. The Board is comprised of individuals from across the globe, currently that includes South Korea, USA, Lebanon, Philippines, Colombia, Kenya, Bolivia, Panama, Togo, India, Germany and Northern Ireland! One of IAVE’s key strands of work is around convening, providing opportunities for people interested in volunteering to come together to share knowledge and learn from each other. Every two years they hold a world conference, the last one was 2012 in London and the 2014 conference will be held in Australia. In the years between world conferences they aim to hold IAVE regional conferences, this year, for example, they will hold conferences in Latin America, in Ecuador; in the Arab region, in Oman; and in the Asia Pacific region in Macau. Each year the IAVE Board meets face to face once at a venue always associated with the global conference or a regional conference. In November the Board members travelled to Muscat in Oman for our meeting and to be involved in the Arab Regional Conference.

The conference in Oman was the second IAVE regional conference for the Arab Nations, the conference was endorsed by the Sultanate of Oman and the host partner was the Oman Association for Consumer Protection. Corporate sponsors included Petroleum Development Oman, Oman Arab Bank, VALE, Oman LNG, National Gas, warif (large Saudi Arabian Philanthropic Foundation), UPS, Interestingly the conference logo was the Frankincense tree known as the Omani giving tree symbolizing the many ways that volunteers give of their time and talents to help others and to improve the societies in which they live. The design was a pro bono volunteering contribution from the world class Omani designer Shadya bint Salim Al Ismailiya. The conference was held in the educational building attached to the Grand Mosque in Muscat, an impressive location. It was also a new experience for me as once you crossed the bridge into the Mosque grounds women had to have their heads covered, indeed for speaking at the conference my dress code was neck to ankles covered with a scarf to cover my hair. During one of the morning breaks my American colleague who is male approached one of the refreshment tables for a coffee to be told in no uncertain terms by a group of Arab women that he needed to cross the room to use the men only table!

Around 250 people attended the conference and the most important factor was that 22 out of a possible 24 Arab Nations were represented. The Arab region is culturally diverse there was representation from what we know as the Middle East – e.g., Oman, Saudi Arabia, the Lebanon, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Yemen; there was representation from North Africa e.g. Algeria and Mauritania; there was representation from Africa e.g. Nigeria, Sudan. Across all of this diversity there was a common interest in volunteerism, I sat through a range of inspiring practice sessions that clearly showcased interesting projects promoting and developing youth volunteering, taking forward cross border initiatives, supporting the delivery of public and welfare services. They share a common interest and concern with other countries, including the UK, in relation to the global issue of youth unemployment. Participants at the conference were also interested in establishing and developing good practice in relation to volunteer management. It is clear that the good practice that underpins the work and capacity building services of Volunteer Now are what other countries, new to creating a volunteering infrastructure, are aspiring to deliver.

At the Arab Regional Conference I was speaking about the value of a robust volunteering infrastructure and the role of volunteer centres particularly the role of a national volunteer centre in providing a cohesive framework for supporting volunteering both promotion and capacity building. I have been working with IAVE for the past two years to develop and establish a Global Network of National Volunteer Centres; the launch of this network will take place in December in Macau, a significant landmark for IAVE and a personal milestone for me in giving leadership to the development of this important initiative. 

~ Wendy Osborne OBE, Chief Executive, Volunteer Now