The idea for the Volunteer Circle was born in January 2017 when I had just returned home from a semester abroad. After getting in touch with many people from different cultures, I was pleasantly surprised at how involved my friends from the US and Europe were in volunteering and community service. The available platforms helped: they had immediate and easy access to web portals that exposed all the different causes and initiatives taking place on ground, and the different regions where they can volunteer their time and effort.
At that time, Lebanon had elected its 13th president and ended a 2-year hiatus; today, local authorities are still struggling and limited in terms of internal structure and the country still deals with the repercussions of the Syrian War and the displaced groups that settled in the country. Lebanon’s local organizations and non-profit groups assumed roles beyond their capabilities, particularly in the field of humanitarian assistance, development, and beyond. These organizations were - and still are - in dire need of extra support and a helping hand in order to move forward. They need volunteers, and so do many organizations in various sectors.
Like many other people, I wanted to devote my time helping and doing something meaningful. I had no connections to the third sector and yet I was so filled with enthusiasm and energy. As often as I tried to search, I couldn’t find much that could help me navigate the multiple entry points into volunteering in Lebanon.
Instead, I spent a summer in Arusha, Tanzania to help orphaned children with education. I am certain that the same urge to contribute existed around me, in light of the local and regional crisis, but I had no access to any real-time tool that helped me channel my skills to the right cause. It is common for one to chase opportunities or look very hard for an event that truly mirrors our interests in this country. Almost everything is to be chased in Lebanon.
In terms of volunteering specifically, there is a big pool of talented and experienced individuals who want to find a meaningful cause to contribute to. On the other hand, there is an IMMENSE demand for support across almost ALL fields of the civil society.
I think this tension is a total contradiction. Both forces needing something or wanting to connect and not being able to reach out to each other. The insight here is that it is a process problem. That was really the genesis of the Volunteer Circle.
A very simple idea, but a much-needed connection. The Volunteer Circle is for the people who believe that individual efforts add up to empower the entire community.
During the process of testing the water and speaking about the idea of the Volunteer Circle to people in my entourage and social groups, I discovered that my partner and co-founder, Nadine, shared the same vision and concern. We both believed so strongly in a fresh and contemporary volunteer culture.
Since then, as activists both personally and publicly, and civil society enthusiasts, we made it our mission to help people move from intention to action by connecting local skills and talents to the latest opportunities within the Lebanese civil society and small/artistic business scene. One day, we hope to grow the Volunteer Circle to be THE skill-sharing and volunteering platform of the entire Middle East.