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Volunteerism Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by onyinye, United States Jun 9, 2002
Human Rights   Opinions
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To begin, I have to confess that I did not know where to start when this assignment was given to me. Was I to write on the joy of volunteering? Or was I to write on the advantages of Volunteering? What view point should I take to look into this issue? A Marxist viewpoint, a feminist viewpoint, this viewpoint or that view point? I have to admit that after thinking about how to address this issue, I decided that rather than procrastinating, I should just go head and see where it leads me. Let’s begin with the basic question: what is volunteering?
Personally, I believe that volunteering is the giving of time for the upliftment of society. In the United States, the act of volunteering has a very historical beginning. In the past, the wealthy members of society took time out to aid disadvantaged people. This aid came in the form of either giving food or shelter to the homeless, teaching the less economically privileged or helping during war to take care of the sick. As a black person living in America, I have to mention that when slavery was abolished and blacks had to learn about the rights that they have in the United States as US citizens, the people who worked at the forefront to ensure that blacks knew their political and economical rights were generally volunteers. This people gave of their time to right the wrongs that were being done to the poorer members of society and ensured that justice was served. Now the question is, how does all this reflect on society today?
Well, I believe that as younger members of society who have a global citizenship, we should work in the forefront of correcting the wrongs that exist in today’s world. Every time when one switches on the TV or listens to the radio, one is faced with the horrors of today’s society. There is always war either starting or in progress over trifles, famine within societies where famine should not exist, or children being sent to work in abhorrent conditions, in fact some of these children work as prostitutes and open themselves to all kinds of deadly diseases.
If this feels rather like a fantasy and you cannot believe that something like this occurs, I encourage you to go to the major cities of whatever country you live in and look around. Notice the poor. There is no city today that does not have its share of the poor and the homeless. The one’s that suffer the most from poverty are the children. Every time I discuss this issue with my friends I cannot help but bring up the story of how an important dignitary from a developed country was coming to Nigeria (my home country) and the streets were cleared up. This clearing was not just a sanitary clean up, rather it was the movement of the city’s poor to the northern part of the country which was unfamiliar territory to many of the poor since many of them came from little villages in the southern part of the country. During this clean up, many children were separated from their families, I am very sure that many families were broken up and people died. The saddest part of this story was the fact that the poor was never given any forewarning that they were going to be cleared out because they had no money and as such they had no voice and no power. They could not fight back. The rich and the middle class within Nigeria was quiet as this atrocity was being committed and no one spoke up. I know because I checked the major newspaper and listened to the radio. Everyone pretended as though nothing happened because it did not affect them. Did anyone ask what would happen to the child who just became childless as a result of this clean up? I do not think so! People were happy being compliant and telling themselves that this was not their story or the story of acquaintances, family or friends of theirs. This is a point in which the power of volunteers could have been felt. They could have written articles, spoken on the radio, worked with the government officials to ensure that families remained intact but at that time, the act of volunteering particularly when it meant aiding the poor was non-existent. Hopefully, it has changed by now.
There is too much going on in the world today and there is a need for people our age to start getting our hands dirty. Yes, I agree that we live in a capitalistic society in which the power of the individual is rated more highly than the power of the collective but we have to realize that if we do not take care of others particularly the weaker members of society, it is going to come back to haunt the future generation. I would like to talk about my volunteering at one of the soup kitchen near my school. I have to admit that we had to volunteer as part of a leadership program that was incorporated in our school. My volunteering task was to work for 40 hours with the city’s poor feeding the hungry. Okay, first thing, when I talked about the middle class keeping silent, I was talking about myself, I am one of the middle class members of society, and dealing with the poor is not what we do. Now I was being forced to see the poor as people just like me, who love and laugh and cry just like I do. It was an eye opening experience because I started seeing them as part of me because they are despite their economic background, their race or their nationality. When I realized this, I got a lot of pleasure from serving them because I knew that when I gave that meal with a smile on my face and told them to have a great day. I was not doing it because I had to but I was recognizing their humanity and their right to live in this planet like I do. I got to talk to them. Listened to their stories about their kids and their grandchildren (many of the city’s poor are the elderly). It was enlightening. When I finished volunteering, I knew that no matter where I ended up in life, I have to ensure that everyone around me understands that we owe our human community so much and we should be willing to give. So please I entreat you, find a space within your community and volunteer. There is always something to do. If you need to contact me email me at onyi3@yahoo.com

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DR PEDUS C EWEAMA | Aug 8th, 2003
Onyi, This is good! It seems you have a great vision. I am also a student activist who believe that the less privileged are humans too. My writings are also posted. good job. Pedus Chidi.

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