NEXT: The importance of volunteering for youngsters’ competencies and gaining experience

More often than ever, we hear people saying that volunteering is a source of goodwill and its payment is made through smiles. If you decide to experience volunteering, it shapes your way of understanding everything and everyone around you and you will begin to make decisions based on solidarity, common good and civic responsibility. Actually, volunteering brings added value to any field in which it is applied; therefore being an important factor to social transformation.

Volunteering is like a boat that you have to steer. While it offers the first form of independence in decisions, it provides cohesion within a group, it also puts you in front of management of material, human and time resources required to keep it afloat and to reach the shore. Volunteering and its positive effects began to be much more appreciated during the pandemic. According to EESA, the substance of youngsters’ desire to volunteer for the common good consists of:

  • Establishing a community, appealing to so-called symbols, common ideals and specific behavior;
  • Exercising the democratic process;
  • Learning how to be represented and to represent others;
  • Contributing considerably to peace and the quality of life;
  • Increasing the significance of work (implemented projects, gained funds) for the economic, social, cultural value of the community;
  • Impacting mental health positively –  and it should be even more embraced after the pandemic;

In other words, volunteering means magic – it metamorphoses the way you create contexts, the way you relate to the world around you and its needs. It makes you more empathetic and much braver. In short, it opens new horizons for you, through the activities and the people you meet.

In 2011, László Andor, Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, pointed out the importance of volunteering for the future of European development, by stating the accessibility of being a volunteer, because ”everyone can volunteer”. He also mentions the benefits of this service for the individual, society and especially the economy.

The attention given to volunteers and their work meets a Europe facing lots of challenges: economic insecurities, the aging of the population, migration and depopulation and a detachment of young people from civic and political engagement. Young people feel a sort of dissatisfaction concerning the traditional structures and their participatory viewpoint has changed. According to Hustinx and Lammertyn, there is an ”reflexive volunteering” which underlines a new individual inclination of volunteering and a less collective one (Hustinx and Lammertyn, 2003, 4).

Estimates indicates that no more than 23% of young Europeans have been involved in volunteering activities. European infrastructure referring to volunteering is diverse, with different perspectives of approaching the subject and a contrasting evolution. Taking this into consideration, on the occasion of the European Year of Youth 2022, the European Commission  makes more than 138 million euros available to them, under the umbrella of the European Solidarity Corps programme. 

Although there is not a generally accepted definition of volunteering across the EU, volunteering encompasses all expressions of ”voluntary activity, formal or informal, undertaken by a person by their own choice and without concern for financial gain, and which contributes to the common good.” (Pater, Official Journal of the European Union, 2022).  Moreover, Krzsysztof Pater, rapporteur for the EESA Volunteers – citizens building the future of Europe, put volunteerism on a pedestal: ”It is time to open our eyes and say that the future of Europe will not be built by decision-makers, politicians or civil society organisations, but by active citizens and volunteers – by people who devote their free time to the benefit of society.”

#NEXT #youth #volunteering #employment #entrepreneurship #Erasmusplus #ESC

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