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There are cynics out there who will say that true altruism is a myth, that it doesn’t exist, and that nobody is capable of doing anything unless they are motivated by their own self-interest in the end.

But even the most embittered cynics would be hard-pressed to explain why anyone in their right mind would make the choice to travel to the poorest parts of the world, where hunger, sickness and war ravage the population and death is as commonplace as life, to help care for orphaned children.

Or why a comfortable middle-class citizen would choose to spend his or her afternoons teaching neglected teenagers how to read in the dirtiest, most gang-ridden part of town. Or why any nurse would risk his or her life to care for wounded soldiers on the very front.

Volunteers come in all shapes and sizes, but they are all the real-life saints and superheroes of this world. And although they don’t ask to be paid for all of their selfless work, they definitely deserve our utmost respect and appreciation, which is exactly what Volunteer Recognition Day is all about.

History of Volunteer Recognition Day

People who have risked their own safety in order to help others expecting nothing in return have existed for hundreds and thousands of years. Ben Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, was also the creator of the very first volunteer fire department that helped put out many Philadelphia fires.

Florence Nightingale, often called the mother of modern nursing, was just as much a hero as any of the soldiers fighting in the Crimean War when she cared for the wounded. Acclaimed whodunit authoress Agatha Christie volunteered as a nurse in the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the Red Cross Hospital in Torquay from 1914 to 1917 when her husband Archie was fighting in World War I.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta, a Catholic nun, spent most of her life in India caring for the those suffering from HIV/AIDS, leprosy and tuberculosis. More recently, many Hollywood celebrities such as Angelina Jolie have made numerous trips to various impoverished parts of the world in an attempt to understand the problems of those living there and find ways to help them. All of these people and many, many more, have changed the world for the better forever.

How to celebrate Volunteer Recognition Day

There are many ways you can celebrate this day in such a way so as to honor those who have dedicated large parts of their lives to helping the needy the world had forgotten about. The best one is to find a way you can help someone—of course, this does not mean you should drop everything and move to a third-world country.

No matter where you live, there are people all around you who have been dealt a bad hand in life, and who need things that most of us take for granted, like a roof over their heads, clothing, a hot meal, or just a little bit of love and attention. This doesn’t just go for people, either—animal shelters are always bursting at the seams with lonely animals who just need someone to cuddle up to.

So choose a cause that is especially close to your heart, and spend this day helping someone else. Chances are, you’ll find the experience more rewarding than any salary could ever be.

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