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Volunteering builds communities

The concept of sustainable development is often associated with environmental or “green” issues. While intended to be positive, terms such as “green” and “eco” have been exploited by the marketing industry and don’t always resonate with the actual philosophy of sustainable development. Sustainable development is an all-encompassing topic that relates not only to environmental concerns but social and economic issues too.Another misconception is that sustainable development is a lofty concept that doesn’t really relate to everyday life. In fact, it’s a philosophy that’s about making conscious lifestyle decisions today that will affect the quality of life in the future. It requires us to shift our perspective from short-term to long-term in any decision-making process. For example, sustainable development is about asking yourself: should I buy from local farmers so that I can support a Bermudian business and also eat healthy produce? Should I spend more time with my children so that when they grow up they’ll teach their children about the importance of education, family and morals?Like many Bermudians, I received part of my high school and college education overseas. Recently I returned to the Island with a fresh and passionate perspective and wanted to support my country while giving back to the community. This is what led me to volunteer my time to the Sustainable Development Roundtable, also known as the SDRT. Thus far, working with the Sustainable Development Unit and the SDRT has been a rewarding and valuable experience. It’s rewarding to engage the Government and people of Bermuda regarding the sustainable development plan and philosophy and to bring it into our mindset. There is no quick return from making decisions that relate to sustainable development. Anyone can become a building block for Bermuda’s future while considering what the standard of living and quality of life will be for future generations of Bermudians.As a young Bermudian I wholeheartedly recommend that everyone give some of their time and energy to supporting a cause they consider worthy. There is nowhere else in the world with as much opportunity for volunteer work as Bermuda. At the beginning of 2009, there were 416 registered charities on the Island, making Bermuda the most densely populated registered charities centre in the world. The Centre on Philanthropy launched an excellent website this year, (www.volunteer.bm) to help individuals identify opportunities to support charities and non-profit organisations that relate to their interests.Everyone has certain skills which an organisation can make use of. I have been able to support the SDU and the SDRT with the creative skills I developed while studying industrial design at the Savannah College of Art & Design. Recently I was involved in developing a public service announcement (PSA), which is being broadcast on CITV and other media outlets. The PSA is called “Young Minds” and it features five young schoolchildren sitting in a professional setting discussing sustainable development and what it means to them. “Young Minds” invites viewers to help them start working now to make connections between the three pillars of sustainable development: social, economic and environmental. I’ve also recently assisted with the development of a new blog, designed to be a communication and educational space between members of the SDU, SDRT and the public.I’m one of many who are giving back to Bermuda; I honour and respect every individual who already has, currently is or plans to volunteer for any organisation. As a small island, Bermuda and its residents have a huge opportunity to be innovative and act as a prototype for incorporating sustainable development methodology into each of our lifestyles. Volunteering for community organisations advances sustainable development, as we need to ensure our social sustainability by supporting our people, culture and heritage. Now is the time to take the initiative and work towards living in a Bermuda where today’s choices are not jeopardising the future of our Island and her people. So volunteer … volunteer to be a Sunday School teacher, a football referee or coach, a driver at Meals on Wheels, a mentor to a youth or a server at one of our churches that feed the needy; the opportunities are endless and it all contributes to our social sustainability.Stratton Hatfield is a member of the Sustainable Development Roundtable (SDRT). He can be reached by e-mail at bdasd.stratton[AT]gmail.com. For more information, visit: www.sdbermuda.bm or blog about social sustainability at http://sustain-bermuda.blogspot.com