As we approach the end of a politically turbulent and testing year, both within the UK and abroad, it can be hard to feel optimistic. Throughout 2016, I’ve often found myself switching off the news. While I want to be well informed, I fear that hearing too much about what is wrong with our society is unhealthy. It’s also only half the story. Today, on International Volunteer Day, I think it’s about time that we started paying more attention to the other half. It’s time for us to talk about what is right with our society.

I’m very lucky to have a job that enables me to hear inspiring stories all the time. As 2016 draws to an end, I find myself reflecting on all the wonderful volunteers I’ve met throughout the year. At Volunteering Matters, we currently enable 30,000 volunteers across the UK to support 90,000 beneficiaries. These volunteers offer their time freely to support older people who may be isolated in their communities, empower disabled people to lead independent lives, offer a helping hand to struggling families or mentor a young person from a disadvantaged background. I find their passion and commitment humbling. Our communities are safer and happier because of their willingness to give their time freely.

The theme for this year’s International Volunteer Day is #GlobalApplause. The United Nations chose this theme to encourage communities to praise the volunteers who, through their dedication and altruism, help to build stronger and more cohesive communities.

So as we head into the Christmas rush, please do take a little time to appreciate the impact of the volunteers who give their time to improve your community. And while you’re at it, why not make it your 2017 new year’s resolution to start volunteering yourself? Volunteering is not only a great way to contribute to your community, it also comes with a whole host of health benefits for you.

So what are you waiting for? Why not sign up to one of our opportunities today, and enjoy the festive season knowing that 2017 will be the year that you make a difference for society and your own wellbeing.