The world is changing. Are you? Volunteer!
Every year on December 5, International Volunteer Day offers an opportunity for volunteer organizations and individuals to share their experiences and make visible their contribution at local, national and international levels – in NGOs, government or international agencies, or in the private sector.
The main focus of this day of action is not only to celebrate volunteerism but also to pay tribute to all those who, through their commitment, are working to achieve the sustainable development goals, while promoting better governance and social cohesion.
Talking of volunteer work is the same as talking about generosity. Indeed, people are generous. In all industrialized countries, many billions or euros are given each year for the benefit of the most vulnerable members of our societies, those living in distress or misery, alone, or in support of humanitarian initiatives or health campaigns in developing countries.
Giving money and time
Among those giving, about 1 in 10 people decides to give more than money and start giving their time. They usually choose to help the most vulnerable, the elderly, sick or marginalized. Nowadays, however, volunteerism is no longer the preserve of pensioners and homemakers since more and more young people respond to the call for solidarity, not only in a spirit of sharing and commitment but also for personal development purposes.
Volunteering goes much beyond a gratuitous and selfless contribution; giving one’s time for the benefit of people in distress can also be much rewarding in terms of pleasure and sense of fulfillment. Volunteering may even be of some help in one’s professional career as was the case for Jose and Elena through their experiences in Dianova Spain.
« Working with Dianova has been a rewarding experience, because of a great working and constructive atmosphere, but more particularly through the fact that the work that we had to carry out, in each one’s respective fields, was aimed to foster the development of young people with problems’.
« I also had the opportunity to attend a number of training sessions across Europe where I got to know people with similar interests, but totally different life situations. This is the kind of thing that makes you grow as a human being. » José Parra Blaya
« I was lucky to find extraordinary work atmospheres through which I have been able to give my best and be more efficient. I have learned a lot from my volunteering time in an association which supports victims of torture, which later on put me on the track to developing my main research topic.
« Through this association, I’ve been able to improve my thesis and now, as for the work I have carried out in Dianova, it eventually laid the groundwork for a subsequent project for the victims of traumatic experiences. Elena del Barrio Álvarez
Hacesfalta.org is a volunteer- and employment-oriented platform dedicated to the third sector. Developed by the hazloposible foundation, it has been, for more than 15 years, establishing contacts and partnerships between NGOs and Spanish citizens eager to give their time and knowledge to benefit social causes.
Volunteering can be selective
The plight of victims of natural disasters, famine or epidemics and their poignant stories regularly touch the heart of generous people who then decide to engage in humanitarian volunteering in developing countries. Despite their generosity, most of them are unlikely to achieve their goal due to the increasing movement towards the professionalization of the voluntary sector, especially with respect to humanitarian aid. Large NGOs’ human resources departments develop strict selection processes for prospective volunteers – not only in terms of job proficiency and work experience, but also as regards their motivation and psychological profile.
Helping for the right reasons
Of course, there is no need to turn people away and anyone can help out people in need, for the benefit of a neighbor living in solitude or in a local NGO assisting the poor. However, there is one key condition before committing oneself to any volunteer activity – it is to have a clear self-understanding. Not particularly about one’s motives – it may be difficult to analyze whether they result from one’s personal history, guilty feelings or willingness to rectify an ancient wrong – but about the very purpose of aiding other people. To put it more clearly: I am not volunteering for myself but to help make a difference for the others. To help them find, within themselves, the resource necessary to overcome their problems, through respect and understanding.
Goodwill and vow to do the right thing are just not enough. Volunteering directly with people in distress implies to possess common sense and emotional balance, but also to being capable of active listening, while maintaining always a distance that prevents us from being overwhelmed by other people’s distress.
Translators without Borders is a nonprofit association set up to provide pro bono translations services for humanitarian nonprofits. The association has donated over 13 million translated words to charitites, which is equivalent to about $2 million released to NGOs
Everyone can volunteer
Most humanitarian assistance organizations are likely to reject applications from those who wish to help for the wrong reasons: religious or sectarian proselytism, fascination with suffering or distress, or, more simply, too great an identification with the other.
Still, if their motives are unselfish, everyone can have the opportunity to help an NGO or an association, without necessarily intervening directly with beneficiaries. Volunteering may also mean combine one's professional skills with a good cause and help "good people do great things" Whatever your skills and competences, an organization may need you! Thanks to your good work, it can provide better services to its beneficiaries. No not hesitate !
« When we got to the Dianova’s Terrebonne center, our merry group of nine highly motivated volunteers was divided into several groups to help repaint the façade and prepare the center’s vegetable garden. The residents had put some rock music on to help us work and later on they offered a splendid BBQ! It’s been a wonderful day, filled with laughter and we found in ourselves some real talents for arts and project management, and more particularly, we had a lot of fun together and giving a bit of our time to other people » Volunteers of ‘Communauto’, centre of Terrebonne (Quebec), Summer 2015