| “A VOLUNTEER is a person whose charity is fidelity, who is faithful in an unfaithful world, grateful in an ungrateful world, giving when all about are grasping, listening when others need to tell about their fears and problems.”
- From "The Beacon," newsletter of Birthrite, South Africa. Submitted November 18, 2004 by Marjorie Moore. Minds Eye Information Service, Belleville, IL
Although volunteerism is a global phenomenon, its potential for helping meet desired sustainable development goals is yet to be fully recognized. Volunteerism is not new. Indeed, since the beginning of civilization, one of the most basic of values has been people helping people and, in the process, helping themselves. Volunteering, a personal or collective engagement, which flourishes in all nations, cultures and religions, is present across the spectrum of human development activities. What is new is the growing awareness and recognition of the contribution of volunteerism to social and economic development. Research and examples at the local, national and international levels highlight the importance of volunteering for the development process. Data on formal volunteerism in several countries suggest that most volunteers and the groups in which they are involved are active in more than one of the core areas of sustainable development, such as social services, health, education, credit and financial self-help groups, community development, housing, environment and animal protection.
"Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of darkness, for he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children." - Ezekiel 25:17.
Volunteerism connects well with the three pillars: economic growth, social development and environmental protection. In countries where the contribution of volunteerism has been tabulated, the figures suggest that anywhere between 8% and 14% of GNP can be traced to voluntary action. Less empirical observations in many other countries on the economic productive capacity of local communities clearly highlight the impact of voluntary action on the well-being of those communities.
When the purpose of service and volunteerism is to strengthen democratic participation and community empowerment, volunteerism can be wholly beneficial. As Ivan Illich once observed about international volunteerism, "[Volunteers] frequently wind up alleviating the damage done by money and weapons….” When conducted as part of a deliberately revelatory cycle, volunteerism can become a process for empowerment, as long as it is not at the expense of others' self-determination.
After growing up occasionally homeless, then in a low-income community where my family and friends was the subject of much volunteerism, I started working as volunteer for the people in many areas like developing a tutoring and mentoring program for the rural youth and women, and assisting many voluntary organizations in the rural area, training them on ICTs, sustainable environment and how to help the physically challenged. I promoted volunteerism to all kinds of people. However, my most riveting experience came when I served as state co-coordinator for International Association for Volunteer Effort where I was responsible for recruiting and teaching young and old people about volunteering. I discovered that the language of "service" covered an attitude that was pious at best; at worst, it perpetuated a sense of “noblesse oblige” - the royalty, taking pity on the peasants and giving them alms.
“Service is never a simple act; it's about sacrifice for others and about accomplishment for ourselves, about reaching out, one person to another, about all our choices gathered together as a country to reach across all our divides.”
-Former US President G. W. Bush
My own concern was coupled with others whom I met in this act of volunteering. After several years, I worked with a group of people from across the Nation and West Africa to develop a teaching practice called Activist Learning. I will never forget my relationship in volunteerism with Dr. Rose Ekeleme and Oyebisi Babatunde Oluseyi with whom I organised IVD 2004 events together. After exploring the benefits and faults of service learning, we defined Activist Learning as community learning characterized by people taking action to realize a society based on just relationships by seeking to change unequal power structures throughout our communities. However, after promoting Activist Learning for several years I discovered that there is another need that extends beyond schools and into communities. I saw that need as a re-visioning experience of volunteers.
Below is the sample work of volunteers in Nigeria.
Dr. Rose Ekeleme – President - International Association for Volunteer Effort (Nigeria)
Dr. Rose Ekeleme became a member of IAVE in 1988, Dr. Ekeleme has been an avid and dedicated volunteer from her youth, when she volunteered as a Girl Guide and member of the Red Cross to assist the disabled and the less privileged. It is this same interest that prompted her to major in special education for her doctorate degree. She belongs to several philanthropic organisations in Nigeria, especially those catering to the interests of women.
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