Reflection: Princess Zahra on the importance of volunteerism

“Voluntary service to others is viewed as an integral part of daily life never as a burdensome obligation or an elective activity.

Service is a means for each individual to actualise Islam’s ethics of inclusiveness, of compassion, of sharing, of the respect for life, and of personal responsibility for sustaining a healthy physical, social and cultural environment.”

– Princess Zahra Aga Khan, keynote address at the conference of the International Association for Volunteer Effort
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, August 25 1998

Princess_ZahraThe International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) was created in 1970 as a global non-profit organization to promote and celebrate volunteering through national chapters. One of the chapters, the Wild Rose Foundation of Alberta, hosted a meeting of volunteers and volunteer organizations from August 23 to 27, 1998 in Edmonton, Canada. Around 2,800 delegates from close to 100 countries attended the five-day event which consisted of more than 214 workshops held at the University of Alberta in Edmonton. The conference was attended by then Prime Minister of Canada Jean Chretien and Alberta’s then Premier Ralph Klein. In her keynote address at the conference, Princess Zahra, who co-ordinates social development activities of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), spoke of the concept of service in the Ismaili tradition:

Voluntary service to others is viewed as an integral part of daily life never as a burdensome obligation or an elective activity. Service is a means for each individual to actualise Islam’s ethics of inclusiveness, of compassion, of sharing, of the respect for life, and of personal responsibility for sustaining a healthy physical, social and cultural environment.”

Princess Zahra noted that whilst the importance of donations of time and money was widely recognised, the other two elements were not:

Thought helps others to help themselves. Knowledge enables the educated to provide technical information to the less educated on how to meet their own needs better and serve others.

“Socialising young people to see voluntary service as an important part of everyday life is the key,” Princess Zahra declared, “and providing models, opportunities, programmes and appropriate incentives are the means.”

Extracts from
AKDN Press Release http://www.akdn.org/Content/531/
UNVolunteers http://www.unv.org/en/news-resources/archive/unv-news/unv-news-september-1998/doc/unvs-executive-co-ordinator-addresses/print.html

Research by Nimira Dewji

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