Many want to be volunteers but hesitation gets in the way. Being committed to a long term volunteering program can sometimes be daunting. On the other hand, some volunteering programs expect you to have very high commitment - not only to the program but also to the organization. Or else you’re out.
According to dictionary.com, the term ‘volunteering’ itself is defined as practice of talents for charitable, education and worthwhile activities especially in one’s community
. Volunteering is not a glamorous job and volunteers are not the highlight of the show. More often than not, volunteers have to spend their time, energy and sometimes their own resources for little to nothing in return. Though some organisations pay their volunteers, it’s still rare to see that happening in the volunteering ecosystem.
With all the efforts by volunteers, there are a few cases in which volunteers are being taken advantage of. They are required to do a gazillions things on top of the volunteering work because they’re free labour. And volunteers are willing to do anything because most of them are passionate about volunteering, and for young volunteers, they take this opportunity to gain new skills which will benefit them in the future.
Whilst altruism is used as the main motivation to keep the act of volunteering going, is not a bad thing at all to keep one motivated, but research done by the Government of India reported that although volunteers enjoy volunteering, they often feel unappreciated. The public on the other hand, is not aware of the important nature of their work which can be a demotivating factor as well as a barricade in exerting influence to new volunteers.
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Volunteers in accordance to Sustainable Development Goals (SGD) of the 2030 Agenda inferred that a supportive environment and opportunities are the fundamental basics needed to properly leverage young volunteers’ potential. This way, volunteerism can benefit the volunteers and their volunteering service will be sustainable and benefit society at large.
In Malaysia, the ability to manage volunteers to engage in volunteering efforts was reported as a major challenge for most NGOs. Many organisations found it very difficult to get volunteers to get involved with their programs and workflow without proper training. Additionally, most NGOs need volunteers to form a dedicated group in training new volunteers. It’s ironic, but that’s the truth. Ensuring the sustainability of a programme or project is one of the main reasons why NGOs prefer to accept volunteers who are willing to commit for the long term rather than a high-turnover group of volunteers.
In 2012, Malaysia was ranked 76th out of 153 countries in the World Giving Index. A report made by Katharine Gaskin for the Institute for Volunteering Research, concluded that most volunteers are looking for appreciative organisations that value their hard work and not feel like they’re being used most of the time because, well, they are free labour.
India Youth’s Policy in 2014 focuses on a framework specifically made to promote youth development through volunteerism as well as creating an ecosystem that will facilitate and enable volunteering. According to the policy, volunteers must be seen as genuine partners in development, who will drive social change rather than just being a service provider.
Sure, volunteers and voluntary work don’t have the need to be in the spotlight altogether, but everyone likes to be appreciated once in a while. It’s good to feel like we’re not just free labour labelled under the name of ‘volunteerism’.
In the meantime, volunteers need to take initiative in finding the right platform to volunteer. Make sure that the organisation that you volunteer for is legitimate, trustworthy, with no dodgy project(s) going on, verified, and most importantly - a place that allows you to grow your skills.
Now go forth and start changing the world one step at a time!