How Does Volunteerism Develop?

By Kalnins, Zaiga Priede | Journal of Cultural Diversity, Winter 1998 | Go to article overview

How Does Volunteerism Develop?


Kalnins, Zaiga Priede, Journal of Cultural Diversity


Most of us, at some time in our lives, perform some type of voluntary activity -- something for which we are not paid in monetary terms.

I assume that we do not consciously say to ourselves, "I am volunteering." I believe that most of the time, we volunteer because it is the right thing to do. Not only do we enrich our own lives, but in some way we make the world a better place in which to live. No matter what we do as volunteers, we provide a service - a service that may not be delivered without the extra hands that volunteers offer.

This autumn with the various natural disasters occurring in this country and in areas beyond our borders,-many people offered goods and services without renumeration for their assistance. This outpouring of good will has been described as unmatched in previous times. With the holiday season fast approaching, we are receiving numerous requests for canned goods and similar products for food pantries that feed the hungry and less fortunate members in our society. Various organizations, radio and television stations, schools, places of employment, and others are collecting goods for some worthy cause. Some of us will support these causes just as others have supported them throughout the year.

Volunteer activities take many forms -- serving as a leader for the Girl and Boy Scouts, visiting the elderly and shut-in, being candy stripers at local hospitals, college students serving as members of various organizations helping with worthy causes, participating in parents organizations in public schools, providing materials that are not available in other ways, working in various civic groups and election campaigns. University faculty also provide service to their departments, colleges and universities and their profession, as do auxiliary workers in health agencies and the list continues in an inexhaustible manner.

A fair number of retired individuals turn their talents into providing volunteer services to new entrepreneurs, in tutoring students at various educational levels, in assisting local schools with various projects to serve in the developing countries and other related concerns. This type of service not only benefits the receiver, but also the senior citizen by fulfilling a need to be useful.

Some people have turned their volunteer activities into full-time paid positions. The latest instance about which I heard was when a person identified a need that was not met in her community. She noticed the various problems that a recent immigrant group was having in gaining information about everyday things that most of us perform without thinking. She started to provide this information out of a small parked trailer. Now this small effort has turned into a full blown center that not only provides information and support, but also provides health promotion, prevention and maintenance and other services. This undertaking now has a building and all services are provided by volunteers; however, the center is managed by the individual who initiated the idea a few years ago as a volunteer and now receives an equitable salary. …

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