The Building Bridges Coalition (BBC) is a consortium of organizations promoting international volunteerism.  They believe in improving the quality of international service and scale up the number of international volunteers sent abroad every year maximizing positive impact in communities worldwide.

On June 14, Building Bridges Coalition (BBC) celebrated its 10th Anniversary. Thanks to Atlas Corps, I along with a group of fellows attended the one day event held at Brookings Institution. On this day many organizations came together to promote excellence and 2030 impact through international volunteer service.

The key note address was by General Stanley McChrystal who stressed on the need of developing the habit of service and good citizenship and it should be a part of our culture to serve others.

Following this came on stage Ahmad Alhendawi who is the United Nations Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth. He said that volunteering is not a new or old thing it has always been there. He also echoed General Stanley McChrystal on service being a part of our culture and habit.

The first panel discussion was on ‘Role of Volunteer Service in Achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. Diana Melley, Vice President, Global Citizenship Initiatives, IBM, and Executive Committee, Impact 2030 spoke about how companies all over the world are stepping up towards engaging volunteers.  Richard Dictus, Executive Coordinator at United Nations Volunteers said that volunteers are Amino acids of the sustainable development goals. Carrie Hessler-Radelet, Director, Peace Corps said that their model is all about integration. Peace Corps volunteers live with the people they serve. Susan Rechle, Counselor, USAID said it’s not about providing bed nets but to help communities take charge is how we can achieve the SDG’s.

The next panel discussion was on ‘Policy Perspective: International Service in the Next Administration.’ This was an exciting panel as our CEO Scott Beale was one of the panelists. He remarked that Atlas Corps is a wonderful program to build capacity as talent is universally distributed but opportunities are not. It doesn’t matter where you are born, if you are passionate and have the skills, Atlas Corps will help you get an opportunity. He also said that we need a global partnership to build a global service.

The last panel discussion was on ‘One Million Americans in Global Service: The Role of Faith Based Service.’ The discussion revolved around how there needs to be a mechanism for volunteering, such as debt repayment for volunteers in programs like Peace Corps.  About 50% volunteers are faith inspired said C. Eduardo Vargas, Deputy Director at USAID.

The last part of the event constituted of 5 break-out sessions. I attended the break-out session on 2016 National Policy Development and BBC Engagement.  In here discussions revolved around making a strong policy and action blueprints to build on extensive service world policy recommendations previously endorsed by BBC and over 200 leading organizations across the sector.

The day ended with remarks the Chair of BBC, David Caprata followed by a reception at the Brookings.

Overall, it was a thorough learning experience as we met many known identities in the field of volunteers. I have myself volunteered since I was 19 almost 8 years down the line I see how big it has become and how much it can serve.