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The challenges and rewards of voluntary work

“Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the earth who reflect this nation's compassion, unselfish caring, patience, and just plain love for one another. Erma Bombeck”
In a city where power is essential and who you know is more important than what you know, it's easy to believe that few people care about the vast social problems. Yet tap into a very different kind of network, the world of volunteers, and the city begins to look human. Voluntary work, the things we put our hearts into without asking for reward, is a priceless asset to any country. Most voluntary work is fitted into people’s spare time. Voluntary activities range from rattling collection boxes in the streets to sitting as a Justice of the Peace, from improving wildlife habitat to manning telephone help lines for children or parents.

Volunteerism itself is nothing new. Community service and volunteering have long been firm traditions in the USA. A 1995 survey conducted by the Gallup International Institute estimated that 93 million people volunteered that year, giving an average of 4.2 hours per week with a total value of $201 billion. And more than 36 per cent of American households volunteer as families.

What makes people volunteer?

-emotional fact – you realize that you give hope to many people, it’s nice to know you’re bringing a little bit of happiness into someone’s life and putting something back into the community, get pleasure out of feeling that you are making life more pleasant for people.

-the desire to put something into the place where they are living (for e.g. to create a good environment for teenagers in the most deprived areas of the town)

-to be involved with some organization-youth league for e.g.- to help properly ( to be a full-time volunteer) to run a number of youth clubs or to organize seminars on racial harassment, community relations and drugs

-the feeling of bringing people together, to combat the disconnection and alienation that lie at the core of nation’s most serious social problems, to shift focus to such problems



- to advise adults on issues such as housing and employment

-help young people prepare CVs and application forms, advise them on interview techniques

-visits to housebound people in order to give the main carer a break (the so called extra care home for elderly people)

-great impact on social problems, such as youth violence

-doing bereavement couselling



-emotional deal of satisfaction: it’s nice to know you’re bringing a little bit of happiness into someone’s life and putting something back into the community

-you get a pleasure out of feeling that you’re making life more pleasant for people

-the feeling that you’re needed

-you work with like-minded people and find it amazingly interesting

-it’s great to be able to do smth and at the same time make money for a worthwhile cause (when organizing projects, fundraising-donations)

-in the USA the government is recognizing the potential of volunteers (President Clinton asserted “The solution must be the American people through voluntary service to others”, Bush” it’s about getting more people off the sidelines”)

-many companies encourage volunteering through release time schemes and most have special offices to promote and organize volunteering

NB! Also stressful: goodwill alone isn’t enough to ensure the smooth running of a group, this work is ill-defined-when you do paid work you’re appraised-the great danger is to think that you’re only a volunteer-you’ve got to perform as well as you can, relying on volunteers can have its problems


Volunteering is an innovative paradigm for 21st century corporate citizenship

A disquiet about a changing culture of voluntary work: the smaller voluntary organizations are close to the ground, know the real needs and often come up with innovative ideas on how to meet them. Working for local authorities along linescould make the voluntary org-s lose what made them special in the first place.

Emphasis on corporate volunteering

Everyone can be great because anyone can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't even have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love... Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Moral values

Moral values are the object of thorny debates. But most people would admit that they are in some way important. Even the Youth of Today would tend to agree, though their idea of morality may differ from that of their parents.

The human spirit longs for liberation, not just economic and political liberation, important as these are, but also inner liberation from the down-drag of base instincts: hate, bitterness, greed and lust which all too easily enslave us. People long to be themselves - to have a sense of worth and purpose in life; to be able to contribute of their time and talents; to know that they are needed and loved. But being ourselves requires a recognition that we are first and foremost spiritual, not just economic or material, beings. It's time for Britain to take a long hard look at herself.

The country is embroiled in a public debate on standards in public life, values in education, violence in media and breakdown in the family. Moral philosophers, social analysts and, of course, political leaders have all leapt into the fray.

At first glance this appears to be an argument about whether shared values are even possible in a pluralistic society. This is no mere intellectual argument. It is driven by a widely shared gut feeling, which varies from deep unease to sheer horror at the sort of society we have created: a society which can produce the torture and murder of a toddler by two children; the massacre of infant-school children in Scotland; the fatal stabbing of a London headmaster by a teenager outside the gates of his own school. Each of these events in isolation would have produced its own short-lived outcry. Taken together and added to the sickening chronicles of battery, rape, muggings, child-abuse and drug-related deaths they form a swelling tide of anger, bewilderment and despair. Mix in stones of sleaze and scandal in government circles, adultery and divorce among junior Royals, the lies and greed that almost brought down the whole British banking system, “fat cats” in the boardroom, social security fraud, unteachable classrooms, overcrowded prisons, the alienation felt by those who have no home, no job, no prospects, no hope - and no wonder people across the country are crying enough. What is more, they want to understand what has brought us to this mess.

It was the sweeping reforms of the politicians, which set the seal on the permissive or civilized society. Morality was privatized. You could do what you wanted as long as you did not harm anyone else. Later individualism had won the battle, over collectivism worldwide. But it had also seriously damaged social cohesion. Margaret Thatcher could even famously declare: "There is no such thing as society”.

In February 1993 two ten-year-old boys abducted two-year-old Jamie Bulger from a Merseyside shopping centre, tortured and killed him. Proponents of the permissive society were quick to claim that this evil act was a freak event with no universally applicable social or moral implications. Two years later a series of terrible events changed the public mood at a deeper, less transient level. A London headmaster, Philip Lawrence, was fatally stabbed while he was trying to protect one of his pupils from a gang. In March came the massacre of 16 five- and six-year-olds and their teacher at Dunblane. This was followed by an attack by a man wielding a machete at St Luke's infants school in Wolverhampton, only foiled by the courage of a young woman teacher.

This time, people not only cried out, but took action - enlisting the endorsement of politicians, educationists and church leaders and catching the mood of public opinion. It was one thing to warn in the Sixties and Seventies that the ride of permissiveness would lead to family bleak down, increasing violence and civic disorder. Now, a quarter of a century later, the evidence was there for all to see.

Our fragmented post-modern culture ensures that lucre is now a pick and mix attitude to morality. The old authorities - parents, school, church, Royal family, government - have declined in influence. No one else, it is held, has the right to decide by which values I run my life. The danger with that approach, of course, is that I tend to judge myself by my ideals and others by their behaviour.

We seem to be locked into a culture of blame for the parlous stale of the nation. The Churches blame the schools; the schools blame the parents and the media, the parents blame the media and the schools; the politicians blame the churches, the schools, the media, the parents and each other; everybody blames the politicians. As usual the answer's somewhere in between: human beings are both good and evil. A moral education should strive to bring out the good and 'redirect' the evil.

The question arises: Who should impart moral education? In the past, in our society, the Church played a leading role. This is no longer the case for the vast majority of people, so the burden is concentrated on parents and teachers. Moral values are more successfully imparted by example than dictate. It's been said million times, but the most important thing for a parent to do is to love their child. Love produces a response of love. And love, after all, lies in the basis of all morality. Elders should at least allow the YOT to develop their own standards as a product of their own experience.

If passing on moral values became an issue for all the family, then we might get rid of a lot of the antagonism and angst involved. If each person began with what they could do, where they are, to put things right and to set new standards, then we might soon see a difference.


Date: 2015-12-17; view: 707

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