Let's begin with a little bit of History……….
International Voluntary Service (IVS) was born in 1920 when Pierre Ceresole, a conscientious objector during WWI and an advocator for Peace, organized the first reconstruction camp near Verdun in France with the participation of German volunteers, despite the reluctance of local inhabitants who still saw the Germans as their enemies.
IVS laid the foundation for many other movements like Service Civil International (SCI) in the 1930’s, Knights of the Lord of Peace in 1923, Christian Movement for Peace (CMP) in 1947 which later changed its name to Youth Action for Peace (YAP) in 1994 and many others.
In the 1930s Pierre Ceresole had the chance to meet Mahatma Gandhi and both recognized their similar interests in the work for peace. A work camp was later organized after this meeting in the 30s in India. Meanwhile, in Europe work camps continued and volunteers were found supporting Spanish refugees in France escaping from the civil war, by providing canteen service.
After the Second World War (1939-45) many new bodies came into being to help the reconstruction of Europe and the people who had been at war. From the 1950’s onward, the number of volunteering organizations across the globe started increasing. Through these organizations more and more people started coming forward to address global concerns and extend their hand to those in need.
Today, we find many national as well as international volunteers, working in various different fields from spreading the message of peace and solidarity to upholding Human Rights, from promoting intercultural dialogue to encouraging sustainable development, from campaigning for better Health, Education and living conditions to protecting the environment. International Volunteering Service through its tremendous force of volunteers is continuing to play quite a large role in addressing many global issues.
From the past few decades up to the present day, volunteers have contributed and created an enormous impact not only on the well-being of communities and the environment worldwide but also on their own personal and professional lives. The work done by volunteers has gained the attention of many Governments and they now realize the important role volunteers play in building stronger societies and breaking down prejudices and stereotypes for creating a world that values mutual respect and understanding.
If one were to classify the impact of Volunteering Service, it would fall into 3 broad categories :
- Social Impact of Volunteering
Take any society, for instance, and it is an undeniable fact that it will have many divisions within. The one that often stands out and is quite noticeable is socio-economic divisions, apart from others like language, culture or background. In these societies for the social fabric to remain intact and grow stronger, several practices that bridge these gaps have to be adopted. Many studies and surveys have shown that Volunteering often plays a vital role in bridging these gaps in different parts of the society. It brings people from different walks of life together, who otherwise may never come in contact with each other.
Voluntary organizations are concerned to have a varied range of collaborations while carrying out volunteering projects, which could include – community partnerships, advocacy, networking, funding, co-operating with the local government and specific departments (like Departments of education, environment, culture and heritage, energy ). This emphasizes the cross-cutting quality and ability of volunteering throughout and between the different sectors.
Volunteering functions by maintaining friendship, teamwork and understanding as a foundation while carrying out any project. It gives people the opportunity to come together and work on a common cause either on a national, regional or international level. This helps significantly in building community cohesion, creating links and social networks and most importantly encourages greater trust and solidarity among people, which is essential for the stability and functioning of any society.
By participating as volunteers, people gain the ability to understand and identify the issues and concerns of their community, to lead or start projects that address these needs accordingly, to overcome prejudice and to understand the importance of tolerance and mutual respect. Above all, volunteering makes one feel a stronger attachment to his/her community.
- Economic Impact of Volunteering
All around the globe, volunteering makes a significant contribution to the economy. According to the Johns Hopkins Center for Civil Society Studies 2011, approximately 140 million people in the 37 countries engage in volunteer work in a typical year. If those 140 million volunteers comprised the population of a country, it would be the 9th largest country in the world. Those 140 million volunteers represent the equivalent of 20.8 million full-time equivalent jobs. It is estimated that volunteers contribute around $400 billion to the global economy annually. Look at the figure below from Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit sector Project:
When volunteers invest their time, for example to clean a neighborhood, paint a school or playground, what is the value of their overall output? If it were not done by the volunteers how much would one need to pay to get them done? Often while considering the GDP, statisticians ignore the economic impact of volunteering.
Measurement of the economic impact of volunteering is still in its nascent stage. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has recently adopted a Manual on the Measurement of Volunteer Work offering an opportunity to solve this problem and to help countries realize and understand the enormous economic value of volunteering.
- Individual Impact of Volunteering
A volunteer is someone who contributes his/her time, skill and energy for the betterment of others without any monetary expectation; however, this act is undeniably mutually rewarding. Volunteering creates a life-long impact in the volunteer by boosting confidence and self-esteem. It creates an opportunity for one to practice and develop social skills, strengthens the ties to the community, broadens one’s support network and reinforces one’s personal/professional goals by exploring opportunities and expanding horizons.
Moreover, many studies have concluded that volunteering is indeed good for the mind and the body. People experience greater health benefits through volunteering activities, especially in older adults. It fills one with a sense of purpose and brings a positive impact on physical and mental health.
By working with people from different social, cultural and economic background volunteers get a chance to develop their interpersonal skills, enhance their networks and learn valuable job skills through hands-on experience. It is a brilliant way to gather life experience.
AREA OF WORK