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Volunteering: who, what and why?

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Startup Jedi

We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.

Founders Club venture startup studio gathers pace as there are forming and actively functioning discussion groups in the most relevant directions: blockchain, applied usage of neural networks, volunteering, Mental Health, Social Games.

Today we will catch a few insights from a discussion group on “Volunteering” in a unique author interpretation.

If I was asked about the meaning of the “volunteering” concept, I would answer that this is a process where you become a little better: smarter, more confident, more experienced, and happier. But officially everything is simpler — this is voluntary, gratuitous activity for the benefit of society.

It can be helping a specific person or solving a global environmental problem; volunteering for the sake of experience in a chosen field of activity or helping abandoned animals; there are a lot of options.

But what is at the heart of volunteering? What motivates people to do something for free in their free time? Let's figure it out.

1. Traditions of a society or a social group

When I came to the USA on a study trip, I was surprised by the local volunteer movement. Literally everyone is volunteering there: from schoolchildren to retirees and entire companies. You might even call it a hallmark of Americans.

It all starts from school. My favorite example is the international scout organization. Yes, these are the guys who sell cookies in many American films. Girls and boys from 8 to 17 years old can join the scout movement. There they receive informal knowledge and learn an important postulate: “Helping people is my duty”.

Also, volunteering is an important argument when applying to good US universities. During the documents’ consideration process, university commissions give preference to active students who take part in the social life.

Another example I just can't miss is the volunteering of an entire company. Its staff could replace a few hours of work with the same number of hours of teaching at a nonprofit education center for teens.

This is how volunteering becomes a habit and accompanies people throughout their lives.

2. Curiosity and broadening your mind

Volunteering is not only about helping the local community. There are really no boundaries and it offers many opportunities for curious adventurers. Going to volunteer in a national park on the other side of the world — sure, why not. Rescuing seals, protecting rainforests, helping old people on the island: there are many opportunities to discover.

Of course, there is a big catch in such kind of motivation: when it’s not a desire to help someone, to solve some problem, but simply a thirst for adventure or a desire to escape from their everyday life. Especially if a person doesn’t admit it. Then there is a great chance to get into more troubles in a new place, then get disappointed in volunteering and don’t get any positive experience.

But if you realize that this is not just a trip, then you will find a mountain of experience, new connections, the opportunity to live in a different culture and a better understanding of yourself.

3. Personal history

Sometimes, there are events happening nearby that you cannot help but get involved. For example: Hurricane Javier in Minsk in March 2013. When almost everyone got involved in the fight against bad weather and snow: someone was digging cars and roads, someone was giving a lift to people stuck in the city, someone was making warm tea and relaying information to those who were "in the field." You can also recall the problems with water supply in a number of Minsk districts in the summer of 2020: people bought and brought drinking water to hospitals and residential areas.

4. Acquiring knowledge and self-searching

This kind of motivation is widespread among youth when we are ready to join free work in different companies in search of knowledge and answers. This is how I started looking for a job and looking for myself. In the fifth year of university, I simultaneously volunteered in environmental and marketing companies, and it was a crucial experience.

First, I realized that environmental organizations in Belarus are working a little differently than I expected. And with all my love for this area, I won't be able to work there for a long time (unlike marketing). In fact, this internship became a mini-career guidance for me.

And secondly, I received my first job offer, which I do like. After six months of volunteering, I understood this for sure.

And thirdly, I gained a lot of experience and connections, which were very useful to me in the future.

5. Strong inner desire

There are people who “hurt” for a problem. One friend of mine always rescues cats and dogs. She gets them out of unreal places, washes them, heals and gives them into good hands.

Such needs may be completely different, but specific. Usually there is a reason and a purpose behind such help.

For example: a person wants to help startup entrepreneurs, because new entrepreneurs develop his city, his country, and therefore his standard of living. And once, he also was at the beginning of this path and needed such help.

What is the volunteer portrait?

If we start from motivation, then we can conclude that absolutely any person can be a volunteer, but for some reason it is not like that.

At first, the person has to cover all the primary needs in order to have a need to help others. Feeling hungry or insecure makes it difficult to rescue seals or teach children.

Secondly, many highlight a number of qualities that a potential volunteer should have: responsibility, an active life position, the ability to learn quickly, an understanding of the personal life goals.

If we go to statistics, then the situation in Russia looks like this:

  • 34% of volunteers are people from 18 to 24, and the next age group (25%) are youth up to 18 years old;

  • most often, the people who are volunteering are financially secure people with higher education (or in the process of obtaining higher education) who live in large cities;

  • 75% of volunteers are women.

On the contrary, the situation in the US is the following:

  • people from 35 to 54 years more often devote their time to volunteering, and volunteers under the age of 24 make up 22.6% of the total number of volunteers.

  • according to statistics, those who regularly volunteer have a 27% higher chance of finding a job;

  • there is practically no difference between the number of volunteers among women and men: 58% and 42%, respectively.

Instead of conclusions

There is a very pretentious phrase about the need to change the world for the better. But to hell with the world, we are ordinary people. Change something small for the better: take a kitten home, help a child to understand that he is cool, plant a tree. And sort the trash as it is important.

And the world? Then the world will become better itself. Because it consists of such small, kind, volunteer deeds.

P.S. Volunteering is also good for your health. Volunteering has been shown to reduce the likelihood of developing high blood pressure by 40%. It also improves health by strengthening the body, improving mood and relieving participants' stress.

28 Dec 2021


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