Did you know Pietermaritzburg has a silent army?It’s big, it’s powerful and it infiltrates many sectors of our society.It can mobilise at the drop of a hat, defying difficult logistics with its sheer determination to do what needs to be done. It has a will of iron when needed and is multiskilled and multitalented. It never takes no for an answer.It’s a fierce defender of its cause and it wouldn’t be out of place for us to all stand before it with our heads bowed in awe. But mostly, because its work is so quiet and mostly done behind the scenes, we hardly realise it’s there. But, make no mistake, it is. The men and women of this mighty army rise early, often long before the rest of us, and when their work demands it, they stay up until the witching hours, plotting their plans and working, always working.They can throw a working group together like lightning, and when their strategies are hatched, they thunder into action with a rallying cry.They rush in where angels fear to tread, bravely confronting often unspeakable tragedy. We are ready, they roar. We are here. These are women and men who are not happy to let the status quo prevail, but who challenge it with deeds that make a difference. And, they’re never paid. They do it for mahala. They’re our legion of volunteers, the heroes of the city to whom we all owe a massive debt of gratitude and our unwavering support.And they don’t only swing into action on Mandela Day. For them, it’s a calling that sounds throughout the year.Often retired from long, exacting careers, these champions are not happy to sit back and rest now.They form a vital part of the operations of many of our big, well-known organisations and events here. Many wouldn’t happen without them behind the wheel. Think about the tireless helpers at the Comrades Marathon who work behind the scenes for months in advance sometimes, working towards a common goal; a flawless race day. Churches would battle without them to rely on to hold fêtes and raise funds for new roofs and other necessary things. They disguise themselves as clubs: Rotary, Lions, Round Table and a host of other excellent organisations doing great work.They get busy at temples, mosques and churches, feeding the poor quietly and religiously. They also extend their charity to animals and you find them at the SPCA, Crow, Parr and similar animal rescue organisations.They help the ill, the elderly, the young and those who need assistance.They build, they bake, they cook, they organise, they drive, they do admin and, above all else, they care enough to do it. They are good people.Last week, I attended a lunch near Howick to raise funds for a school that needs support. It was well-attended and enjoyed by those who supported it. It took effort to prepare it all and it was done with a glad heart by those who worked behind the scenes. They didn’t have to do it. They don’t stand to benefit in any way. It was completely altruistic, but it also looked like they were having fun. I guess it can be sociable too.I know a youngster who used to volunteer at the wonderful Hospice bookshop while she was at varsity here some years back. It helped her get out the house while she was writing her thesis and also she had first dibs on the best books.So it’s not only for the retired people. And if we choose our causes carefully, they can have hidden benefits.Volunteering is the best display of civic action and the spirit of a community caring for each other. We seldom say thank you to our volunteers. We should definitely acknowledge them more.Thanks to everyone who is doing something. To those who aren’t for whatever reason, let’s support those who are. Our citizens with a social conscience, our army of volunteers, we salute you.