At this moment, volunteers are organizing to collect headstone data in Buenos Aires, Argentina, cemeteries. Others are teaching English skills, via Zoom, to immigrants living in London, England. And still others are partnering with a nonprofit organization to deliver rice and beans to hungry people in Puebla, Mexico.
Each of the volunteers, despite differences in their respective projects and locales, are part of a unified effort: JustServe — the Church’s service-driven initiative that links volunteers of all backgrounds with vetted organizations and projects designed to lift the burdens of others in their own communities.
Since launching almost a decade ago, JustServe.org has connected hundreds of thousands of volunteers to over 100,000 projects, both large and small. While JustServe enjoys vigorous participation in the United States and Canada, the initiative’s global reach continues to grow.
JustServe is not a missionary tool. And it is different from the familiar Church-sponsored “Helping Hands” projects that are commonly activated in the aftermath of natural disasters.
“Through JustServe, we want to partner with local organizations and local volunteers who want to help in their own communities and fulfill local needs,” said Axel Leimer, manager of JustServe International.
While individual JustServe projects are limitless in scope and variety, each is driven by a uniform motive: First, to love God. And second, to love one’s neighbor.
“That is the overarching goal of JustServe,” said Leimer. “We want to help people live the second Great Commandment. … Our ultimate goal is to strengthen and unify communities.”
JustServe enjoys an established foothold in Europe. It is an example for other regions of the world. But even on the continent, there are opportunities for JustServe to expand.
“It is marvelous to see many of the positive stories coming out of the United Kingdom,” said Leimer.
Many of the community groups participating in JustServe “are generally reaching out to the most vulnerable in society,” said York England Stake President Kent Mayall in a JustServe video. “And as I look at Christ’s life, that is what He did. He went and served and ministered to the sick and ministered to the needy.”
As in the United States and Canada, the ongoing pandemic has altered JustServe operations around the world. Traditional service projects require volunteers to be physically present. That’s not always possible amid COVID-19 fears. Still, there are currently some 25,000 active JustServe volunteer projects.
“People have learned to be creative. … We are building new capabilities to do virtual projects. … We just trust that the work will go on,” said Leimer.
For example, a JustServe volunteer in one part of the world can virtually mentor someone in a distant country to improve their English-language skills and become a more attractive job candidate.
Making strides in Latin America
Latin America is also becoming a key region for JustServe projects.
Argentina, for example, is carving key JustServe inroads across the country. Welfare specialists in that South American nation began developing plans to launch the initiative a couple of years ago, identifying would-be partner organizations in the community who enjoyed close ties with the Church.
“The next step, which was delayed due to the coronavirus, was to meet with the organizations with which the Church has a close relationship,” reported Cecilia Goldar Davison, the JustServe representative for the South America South Area. “We were prepared to explore with them their volunteer needs; to share the vision and excitement of how JustServe can help them obtain short and long-term volunteers, especially youth, and to help them create postings, get volunteers, and to better serve our fellow men.”
Known by Spanish-speakers as “SirveAhora,” the initiative has been developing steadily over the past year, despite the challenges of the pandemic.
“To our excitement, in June 2021, the [JustServe] website was totally translated into Spanish, which allowed us to move to the next step — the training of the ‘SirveAhora’ specialists,” wrote Goldar Davison.
JustServe in Argentina already enjoys a trusted relationship with CILSA, a private humanitarian organization that advocates opportunities for people with disabilities, along with children and young people in vulnerable circumstances.
“In Argentina, our [JustServe organizers] have done a wonderful awareness campaign for people with disabilities,” said Leimer. “The project has created awareness, especially among Latter-day Saint youth, for people with disabilities and what their challenges are.
“Those youth have also been trained on media strategies on how they can help create awareness in the general public.”
Other key partners being developed through JustServe in Argentina include local governments, banks, faith-based charities, the Salvation Army and even popular soccer clubs.
Golda Davison is certain the potential for JustServe in her country and beyond are unlimited.
“Our mission with SirveAhora is to have a SirveAhora working group in every community or town in each area country. … We are going to prepare [projects] for Santiago and Viña de Mar, Chile.”
Leimer also points to exciting JustServe developments happening in Mexico
JustServe Down Under
Meanwhile, more than 7,000 miles away from Argentina, community and faith leaders in Logan City, Queensland, Australia, recently came together to share their common vision of building their community through service.
Sue Owen, who coordinates JustServe in Australia, championed the initiative’s volunteer-friendly website — calling it a place for community, business and faith organizations to serve people in need inside of their own neighborhoods.
Other guests at the gathering — which included local civic and Queensland-area religious leaders — spoke of the need to “turn toward each other” and care for individuals and families of all backgrounds.
“I have seen people in this room do extraordinary things,” said Senator Paul Scarr, “which the government, simply by its nature, cannot do. I think JustServe is an absolutely wonderful initiative in terms of providing people with the opportunity to volunteer and help their fellow Australians.”
The Honorary Gary Hardgrave said: “This initiative, JustServe, and the way it brings people together, is timely and of great value.”
“Acts of service are the greatest gifts that we can give in life,” said Graham Quirk, former Lord Mayor of Brisbane.
Janeth Deen, who founded the Queensland Muslim Welfare Association added, “This was a wonderful event and it has prompted me to explore ways we can work together as Muslims and Christians on important community initiatives.”
Elder Carl Maurer, an Area Seventy, hosted the guests.
JustServe is not yet available in all corners of the world. But that is the long term, global goal of the initiative.
He and legions of others participating in JustServe, worldwide, are lifted during each service project by the guiding promise of President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “When we serve together, we realize that our similarities are stronger than our differences.”