History of Volunteering
The word volunteering first tossed in 1755, it was derived from the French word ‘voluntaire’. Volunteering is an altruistic activity where an individual or a group freely gives time ‘to benefit another person, group or organization. During the American civil war, women volunteered their time to sew supplies for the soldiers and the ‘Angel of the battlefield’. Clara Barton and a team of volunteers began providing aid to servicemen. Barton then founded the American Red Cross in 1881 and began mobilizing volunteers for disaster relief operations.
In the first few decades of 20th century while world facing ‘The Great Depression’, saw one of the largest nationwide efforts to coordinate volunteering for a special need. Several volunteering organizations were founded including Rotary International, Kiwanis International and Lions Club International. In world War - II, thousands of volunteers helped military and the home front, including collecting supplies, entertaining soldiers on leave and caring for injured. After the war, people started helping poor and volunteer overseas.
At present, the global volunteer workforce is at 109 million full time equivalent workers. Out of this 30 percent is formal volunteering and rest 70% is informal. Out of total volunteers 57% are women and 43% are men. In the United Nations annual volunteering summit 2019, which is held every year on 5th December,focused on how volunteering could help in achieving 2030 SDG goals. Many organizations have seen the power of volunteering to develop values, sense of ownership and building a better environment.
Organizations Leveraging Volunteering
Social organizations have leveraged volunteering to make a difference in the society and be the driver of change. Some of the enterprises having volunteering as their driver :-
Habitat for Humanity which build houses for the poor with volunteers coming from all over the world. Their belief is not just to build houses with the donations but to instill the feeling of belongingness. This encourages volunteers to come together and build homes not just for the disadvantaged but people, as part of their community.
Talent Quest India, an organization based in Chennai works with the rural students. Volunteers provide mentorship to the students; this initiative is for shaping citizens into socially responsible leaders. TQI has transformed from an idea of student involvement in social activities in their neighborhood to a volunteering movement in about 30 districts across Tamil Nadu, Mysuru, and Pune. They reach 10,000+ rural school students every year with 3000+ volunteers.
A totally volunteer driven initiative helped thousands of students to have an anchor point in their life and has helped them to transform themselves.
PotHoleRaja is a social initiative with a vision to make India pothole free. Up until now they have fixed over 7000+ potholes across 6 cities in India, impacting thousands of lives every day. They have worked with 1,000 volunteers contributing to 5,000+ volunteering hours working on pothole fixing, installing cat-eye reflectors, signages and road safety education to school children.
You can also volunteer and make a significant difference with these simple steps:
1. Reporting potholes.
· Spot a pothole
· Take a picture of the pothole
· Send the GPS location at + 91 814POTHOLE (+91 8147684653)
2. Help us in raising funds which will enable the less fortunate to have a dignified income source.
3. Volunteer in fixing potholes.
Together we can make our road safer to commute.
Perception of Volunteering :
1. It will add more work on my plate: A common thinking about volunteering is more time will be invested in doing it. People in corporate are involved in completing their daily tasks, meetings, business trips and many other responsibilities. Thinking about extra work averts them from taking a step towards volunteering.
Volunteering could be the perfect tool for time management. The busier you get, the better you get at structuring it.
2. People would judge if I fail: Often the fear is people would be around, specially from the same department or the company. If one doesn’t do his work excellently, he might be judged and seem to be incapable of doing a task.
In reality, every work is self-paced and people are involved in different activities and it’s a unique opportunity to know the process in detail. Even if a task could not be done with perfection, you have a chance to improve it as you do. No one is to judge you and you are doing with the good intention of helping others.
3. Volunteering is only fundraising: - A lot of people think that volunteering is only to donate, emphasizing only on one aspect of volunteering. Though it is vital for any organization but there are other ways to volunteer, for instance going to the community, conducting a survey, building online presence of the organization etc.
4. Volunteering doesn’t add money to my wallet: - Investing the time on volunteering will consume the time which had fetched more money if invested elsewhere. This perception is a big barrier for volunteering.
PotHoleRaja and MoveInSync : volunteering for pothole fixing
On one fine Saturday morning of 8th February,2020. PotHoleRaja and MoveInSync initiated a pothole fixing drive in HSR Layout, Bangalore. A stretch of road on front of their office was identified for the pothole fixing which is a common road for commuting for employees and local residents.
At morning around 5:30 am, a total of 30 volunteers (MoveInSync employees and Christ College students) gathered at the stretch of the road identified earlier. Around 40 Sqm. of potholes were fixed in 2 hours of activity impacting thousands of lives every day and ensuring safer commute. The process of fixing is simple as making instant noodles. A pothole can be fixed in just 3 steps.
· Cleaning the pothole
· Putting the cold asphalt in the pothole
· Compaction with hand tool
At the end of volunteering activity, one of volunteers said ”Now I have more respect for the road construction workers, with today’s activity I realized their hard work and importance in making our roads safer. Earlier I used to think why they are stopping whole traffic for this.?” Adding on to this he said “Now volunteering with PotHoleRaja has changed my perspective towards them” with a smile. Pothole fixing activity ended with a group picture and volunteers carrying a million-dollar smile on their face.
Benefits of Volunteering
1. An avenue to be friends with like-minded people: People come to volunteer from different organizations, places and cultures. The environment helps to make friends and to have a chat over a cup of tea.
At PotHoleRaja people volunteers come from across the city, making friends and talking about roads safety, issues that they always talked and complained of but never tried to fix it.
2. It can increase social and relationship skills: Most of the people are shy to interact with strangers and rarely go beyond their comfort zone to initiate a conversation. Volunteering is a perfect icebreaker and interacting with people from different backgrounds helps in building your social and relationship skills.
There are instances where employees come from the same organization and interact for the first time with each other as they were in different department and part of separate building. Volunteering brought them better exposure.
3. It helps to combat effects of stress, anger and anxiety: We all live in a world where everyone is busy in their silos and are stressed. Working in a positive environment breaks the monotony and establishes a connection with the society paving way for an improved mental health.
When you impact thousand of lives every single day by just fixing few potholes and people stop by and thank you, it will surely make your day and makes you forget your baggage.
4. It provides a sense of purpose: - Purpose drives motivation and inspires virtuous work. For the youth volunteering can give direction in life to do something better.
While actively volunteering it gives a sense of purpose and answers to why and where we belong to? motivating us to do better and help people around.
5. It helps to stay happy: Research has found that people who regularly volunteer are happier than those who don’t.
At the end of day impacting lives, getting to know the community and making lives better leaves a smile on your face.
Volunteering In Current Times
In the current times volunteering would be the key to impact millions of lives who require our help. Few hours of volunteering every week will help people around us to get going in this tough time and together we can get through this Pandemic.
Volunteering can make an impact:
· Identify the organization working nearby your area.
· Help in building their social media presence. Create posts, write blogs and articles.
· Volunteer as being the ambassador of the organization. Do brand building for a good cause.
· If you are a techy, help them with their website and digital marketing.
· Work as a support person and communicate to the beneficiaries and the organization.
· Help the organization for their research and analysis. Gather data and make a insightful report for them. It will help them in pitching to their stakeholders.
· Donate no matter how small the contribution and extend your help for fundraising as well. Remember- small steps leads to a bigger impact.
· Smile and spread happiness through your significant efforts.
We have recovered from disasters, world wars and viruses in past. We have made our countries, economies, and people resilient through volunteering and helping each other. Now, together we can pass this through. It will take some effort but, its worth to see happiness on someone’s face.
We make a living by what we get,
but we make a life by what we give.
Article By : Prashant Kushwaha