Academic credits for social services

We, the leaders of the most renowned NGO’s, joyfully offer ourselves with to share our experiences because there is no better cooperation than that which takes place between cooperating people, nor greater help than that which is given to others so that they help themselves. But it’s alarming to see the growing proliferation of NGO’s that depend of power, political, economic or ecclesiastical centres.

This trend extends itself through many autonomic communities that risk converting cooperation and volunteering into one more business of its administrative structure. Soon, the townships will start following this pattern, depriving of meaning of social action they should do along with professional social and professionally paid assistants. Parties and syndicates have done this with well-known NGO’s. As a result, they are harvesting the disenchantment of generous people, which they tried to convert into their followers, proselytes or militants.

I recently gave a conference in the capital of an autonomic region. The invitation came from an NGO whose name didn’t make one foresee that its president and the staff were public functionaries, as well as the hired personnel. Later on, I realized that almost none of them had any experience in the area of social volunteering. “An NGO was necessary to channel the aid of an autonomic region in plans of cooperation for development,” they explained to me. “Didn’t you trust the projects of the NGOs with prestige?,” I asked. “Well, this is just a way to capitalize an action by the government and to decide where resources go.” No further comments.

They had almost no volunteers and those who appeared as such were party affiliates or people supporting their political group.

Some universities have created their own NGO’s and Solidarity Action Offices with a public functionary, professor or administrator leading the effort. Not only do participants receive a salary, but their actions also serve as “merits” in their careers. One of the candidates for president of the Complutense University of Madrid presented a similar proposal in his program. Happily, he didn’t succeed because of the rejection of real social volunteers in the university.

Another astonishing aspect the “academic credits” that some universities, mostly private, give students for their volunteering; or give them titles for assisting to some Masters in cooperation and social action. I recently participated in one where they paid 500 dollars for four consecutive hours of conference time (for administrative reasons) and to which five people attended! After the Master is concluded, a title is awarded.

I have visited many similar entities and as a social volunteer and chairman of an NGO, I must say, “that’s not it, that’s not it.”

Institutions have to shelter and help humanitarian organizations that emerge from the social tissue and that they consider to be serious. Substitutes are dangerous and will turn against that generosity of solidarity.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 05/31/2004