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What we can learn from the USA about community forming

As a Dutchman with parents who’ve lived in the USA for an extended period, I’ve a good comparison between two countries known for their – albeit quite different – social nature. The Dutch are known to give more to charity than almost any other people. But the Americans are more likely to donate their time in helping strangers. How does this translate into real-life opportunities to build a community that noticeably makes your world a better place? How does giving time have more impact than giving money?

I visited my parents – father and stepmother to be precise – and questioned them about their organising of a balloon festival in the town where they’ve lived. How did they do it?

Yes, my father was the ‘best person’ someone with a vision and a drive. Yes, they had sufficient contacts to help them connect to government, charities and sponsors.

What I found different is the density of volunteering organisations they were able to involve without much ado. That means physical presence and work for a wide spectrum of charitable and noble goals that can be requested. That is something different from going door-to-door and receiving money for these same goals. It underlines the often observed fact that in places of dire need, non-governmental organisations provide infrastructure for organisating all sorts of activities. In Lake Havasu City, the need is not dire but the motivation is great. Thus they were able to realise this great event, making perfect use of the clear skies, beautiful London Bridge over a river running through the desert and the curiosity of residents in the environment to visit cultural activities.

The lesson is that financial gifts are welcome and flexibly usable, but people willing to exert their time and effort to improve their immediate surroundings make real differences in the real world. They organise parties, neighborhood watch, neighbors caring for each other and a host of other activities that add to our shared happines.

Just think how happy this would make you if it happened in your home town:












And this great guy organises an event for over 20,000 people and is happy with recognition as a reward! Making volunteering part of everyday life really adds to its quality. Donations are still essential, but they will not have any impact without the infrastructure of volunteers to realise real-life activities.

Being thankful for all the work and community-engagement! And thanks for being part of the inspiration to the upcoming activity in The Hague, Netherlands, on community building for a caring neighborhood!