I've been thinking about volunteer work and war lately. Probably because I was near the United Nations recently for an inspiring talk on how Eleanor Roosevelt was opposed to the development of the bomb. What brought me to New York was this group, which I have worked with, off and on, for more than a decade.
How do nonprofits like this -- international, accredited U.N.-NGOs -- function? They function because members give funds to run them (from large bequests to small donations) but even more importantly, they function because of volunteers. Over the years, I have worked with scores of dedicated women who give thousands of hours to organizations like the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, one of the oldest peace groups in the world.
You may not know it, but this month thousands of delegates from NGOs and official UN member countries have been spending time at the United Nations to review the progress of a 40-year-old treaty on Nuclear Nonproliferation (basically, an effort to stop the spread of nuclear weapons.) With Obama in the White House, the effort to slow down the development of nuclear weapons has increased, even while his administration has said they support the development of nuclear power. One of our new WILPF members was at the talk I attended; she came to New York from Georgia where she lives and is involved in a fight to stop the building of new nuclear power plants in a poverty-stricken, largely black, rural community.
Behind the scenes at the UN are groups like WILPF and Psychologists for Social Responsibility, and Women Strike for Peace, and hundreds of others. It was inspiring to be there and hear about all the work going on.
These days there are plenty of places to volunteer, and given that my sister is disabled and my mother is sick with cancer, my family itself has become a volunteer cause; we have friends watching my daughter, bringing food to the house, helping my mother cook -- you name it.
But as the world moves forward, as our government plans for an eventual withdrawal from Iraq, I keep thinking about the young men and women the US continues to send off to battle in Iraq and Afghanistan. With Memorial Day around the corner, it's a good time to think about supporting some of the volunteer organizations in this world that are working to raise the profile of peace.
Photo credit: A "Raging Granny" and WILPF member sings for peace in California. Special thanks to WILPF.