We’ve all experienced a positive mental boost from doing a good deed, whether it’s opening a door for someone with their hands full, donating time, giving blood, or organizing volunteers to make a bigger impact―it feels great to do something purposeful to help people. Israeli businesswoman and philanthropist Shari Arison knows this feeling well. That’s why in 2007, she initiated the first Good Deeds Day, which has since developed into a global movement for doing good.
This annual tradition started with 7,000 participants in Israel. The event went global in 2011 and began uniting people from Vietnam to Costa Rica, from Australia to Italy, from the U.S. to Kenya, from Moldova to Argentina…and in just 10 years has widened its reach to 93 countries with nearly 2.5 million participants.
EO Costa Rica’s Marcelo Burman (pictured above, on right) is the leader of Latin America’s Good Deeds Day initiative—in 2016, the event was on 2 April. We asked Marcelo to share his experiences.
How did you get involved with Good Deeds Day?
I first heard about Good Deeds Day in January 2014, just 45 days before that year’s event. We discussed the idea at my company and decided to “sow the seed” of this initiative. To our surprise, we attracted more than 5,000 volunteers working on about 50 different projects.
The global organizers of Good Deeds Day saw what we did in Costa Rica and asked me to lead the effort in Latin America. We contacted potential partners in each country; last year we reached 25 countries, with more than 50,000 volunteers working on about 1,000 projects.
How do participants determine their projects?
Good Deeds Day is based on the simple idea that everyone can do something good to improve the lives of others―whether large or small―and change the world in the process. What we ask is simple: think about how to collect smiles from people, and then just do it! Volunteers spend the day with patients in hospitals, throw parties for kids with very low resources, volunteer in animal shelters, clean beaches or paint schools. As a result, we collect smiles not only from the ones who receive the good deeds but also from the ones who perform the good deeds!
I’ll share two especially inspiring projects from Costa Rica:
- The Children’s National Hospital, a public hospital in Costa Rica, has an orchestra for children with disabilities, but has limited resources. We invited these children and their parents or guardians to attend a philharmonic orchestra concert in the National Theatre and meet the musicians after the performance. We provided tickets, arranged transportation and provided dinner; it was a dream come true for all of them.
- In Turrialba, a small town of about 70,000 people, volunteers organized a party in the city’s central park with clowns, shows and music. The money raised was used to buy special wheelchairs for two children with cerebral palsy who desperately needed them.
How has your EO membership influenced your efforts?
Good Deeds Day is the embodiment of our EO core value “Make a Mark.” We always talk about how we can do something different and this simple but powerful idea unites people of all cultures and backgrounds on one day to do good together.
I invite all of our EO colleagues to consider how they can participate in this effort, and make a difference in the world. You don’t need a big company or a CSR department. My company has about 50 people, but when I told my employees the idea, they were enthusiastic and thought up different projects each year: We’ve spent the day in a senior center, painted a school, made and shared food with the homeless in the city center and organized a party for children with terminal illnesses.
How will you grow Good Deeds Day for the future?
Our goal is simple: to inspire more people each year to do more good deeds in more places. We’ve already reached more than 90 countries. Imagine how amazing it will be if all people from all over the world do a good deed, at least for one day! Maybe the most important result of this initiative is that the people who participate in it enjoy themselves so much that they start to volunteer several times per year because doing good deeds and collecting smiles makes them feel so good that they want to experience that exhilaration again and again.
What is the biggest lesson this project has taught you?
I’ve learned at least two. First: Big projects start with simple ideas. It’s amazing what people can accomplish when they put their minds to it.
Second: People will join you if you are convinced of the power of your ideas. Good Deeds Day invites people to think of and do something beneficial for their neighborhood, country or world. We’re helping people who don’t have a lot of options or advantages. You will not change the world―but you will change their day. And that is powerful!
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