The role of responsibility and awareness in volunteering

Volunteering is a great and rewarding experience. It is excited to feel a part of a bigger project, it is great to explore the local culture and to try to make a change – there is no doubt about it. It does happen quite often that volunteers come home feeling that they probably got more out of the experience than the children or host organization, that maybe somehow they could have done better. Some of them are even unaware that they might have been fueling money making businesses. Is it supposed to be like that? The answer is: No.

We believe, that volunteering must come along with responsibility and awareness. The combination of these two qualities make a good volunteer:

– conscious about skills she/he can offer and able to choose the most effective way to work

– not confuse the impact that she/he is feeling with that which he is making

– aware of local problems

– recognize and report illegal activity (like human exploitation)

– understand cultural differences and deal with them

– prefer to work effectively even if it is less enjoyable

– remember the importance of being a good role model

Awareness is also necessary to fight the growing problem of irresponsible volunteer programmes focused more on the volunteer’s “feel-good factor” than on the effects of their work. In long terms these practices usually do more harm than good and often turn out to be lucrative businesses.

We believe that promoting awareness and responsibility among volunteers can help to improve the quality not only of their work, but also the work of local and international charity organizations, by creating and promoting valuable and more sustainable projects.