Monday, December 04, 2006

Volunteerism is on the increase

Volunteerism is the willingness of people to work on behalf of others without the expectation of pay or other tangible gain.

According to a report from The American National and Community Service, a Federal Agency, the number of Americans who volunteer to mentor students, beautify neighbourhoods and pitch in after disasters is at a 30-year high, fueled in part by a boom in teen participation.

According to World Volunteer Web, in Europe, Wales has the highest level of volunteering in Europe with around 54 per cent of all adults engaged in some kind of volunteering activity.

In almost all modern societies, the most basic of all values is people helping people and, in the process, helping themselves.

But tensions do arise between volunteerism and the state-provided services, so most countries develop policies and enact legislation to clarify the roles and relationships among stakeholders, and to identify and allocate the necessary legal, social, administrative and financial support.

The increasing influence of volunteer agencies such as the NGOs (non-governmental agencies) has made it necessary to hold them accountable under acceptable guidelines. They still remain independent and flexible making it possible for far greater outreach into different areas of the community unlike the beauracracy of the state organs.

Volunteering helps to build more cohesive communities, fostering greater trust between citizens, and developing norms of solidarity and reciprocity which are essential to stable communities.

The social capital represented by volunteering plays a key role in economic regeneration, as activities undertaken by volunteers would otherwise have to be funded by the state or by private capital.

Where poverty is endemic to an area, poor communities have no friends or neighbours to ask for help, so voluntary mutual aid or self-help is their only safety net.

So it is heartening to know that volunteerism is on the increase reflecting a modern society that is not only economically vibrant but on a more humane level it is also becoming more caring.

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