Volunteering is for everyone
“Together We Can” is the motto of this year’s International Volunteer Day. And the solidarity in this crisis-ridden year has shown how. Now it is time to continue.
This year, on December 5th, is the day to thank especially the volunteers in the fight against the pandemic. The #NeighbourhoodChallenge showed how much a small non-profit contribution from each individual can achieve: from support with medical care to shopping for neighbours in risk groups – to stand up for something bigger together. But volunteering still accompanies us in every condition of life.
More than 3.5 million people in Austria do voluntary work – the motivations are diverse: to help those in need, to develop new skills, to get to know people or simply to stay active.
But most of the volunteers share one experience: Nobody would have expected to get that much back. Here is a little impetus towards volunteering and people with the same conviction.
“I walk the talk“
Volunteering is a direct way of putting your beliefs into action. That was the case with Sarah (27), who was involved in the “European Educational Exchange – Youth For Understanding”: “I wanted to work with young people and show them from my own experience how important intercultural understanding is and how it will enrich their own lives. I was able to learn new things again and again and actually lived my vision for the world. I walk the talk.“
Tess (28) was a volunteer at YEA, a program that works with young people to develop creative ways towards sustainability. For her, it is about investing her knowledge and skills in something she deeply cares about: to secure a sustainable future through education at a young age. “At points it definitely felt like ‘work’, but it was more fulfilling to see our participants realise ideas that come about through our workshops than a new pay check in my bank account.“
Together we can reach more
One of the largest non-profit organisations in Austria shows that you can achieve a lot with united forces: the voluntary fire brigade (die Freiwillige Feuerwehr). Because 99% of the assignments are done on a voluntary basis. But next to great commitment, one thing is in the foreground: an active community. A drive that is in our nature. “The community and the fact that you pursue a goal together that helps other people, makes me happy.” Lisa (22) began her training with the volunteer fire service at the age of nine. Today she is a youth worker in her community. “I want to try to get the children excited about what excited me back then.“
But community help is also possible on a small scale. Gregor (52) supported his retired neighbour with small assistance even before the Corona crisis.
“You don’t have to do a lot to help. I’ll buy her Manner waffles when she runs out of candy. Or we sit together for a coffee and I listen to her stories for the eighth time. And that makes her happy!”
Selflessness or not, everyone can benefit and grow from volunteering. This is exactly why Bernd (22) decided to work for the Red Cross: “With the ambulance service I wanted to expose myself to stressful situations and reality. I wanted to make myself a stronger person by learning to deal with such situations and as a last resort, to be able to help.“
Eleonore (56) was not only motivated by integration help, but also for a change of scene. “When I started helping with the German course for Afghan refugees, I wasn’t doing so well myself. It was a way to get out of the flat and be in company. I wanted to stand up for someone who doesn’t know our country at all. And it broadens my mind immensely. I got to know people I would never have met otherwise.“
Volunteering is more diverse and easier than ever. Now it’s just a matter of finding your own individual way of making the world a little better.