Characteristics of volunteering

We take them from the European Letter for Volunteers and from the Universal Declaration of Volunteering, both approved in the World Congress of Paris in 1990:
Free of charge because the donation of one self and the awareness of being for the others is what sustains the volunteer’s concept of life. Volunteering has continuity because you cannot create needs in those people that you are no longer willing to help. It works best with the vocational preference of the volunteer because one does better what one likes and for what one is more prepared. Volunteering entails personal responsibility sustained by the team that develops the project of the Organization for which the volunteer works. It requires knowledge, respect and the value of different people that might find themselves in the middle of the realization of the volunteer’s work.
Therefore, nothing is farther away from an authentic social volunteer than:
Intrusion, because the volunteer does not invade the professional field but rather collaborates with technical experts in tasks that could not be otherwise accomplished because volunteering is a way of acting that is not present in the labor market. A militant volunteer, no matter how dignifying the ideology or belief that he follows, whether it is a political, religious or cultural organization. Although one has personal options, there is no right to impose them on the activity of social volunteering.
The dilettantism of those who approach volunteering because of vanity or capriciousness and use others as if they were objects of their curiosity or for experimentation; a serious and formal commitment is needed to accomplish concrete functions and tasks of projects that were previously programmed in common. An attitude of assistence, because the volunteer wants to develop personal capacities in those with whom he works that will lead them to autonomy and not to dependence. Even when we recognize an assistencial component that covers urgent needs and prepares an activity that lasts longer and promotes the autonomy of the person. Neither compassion nor a few coins, no matter how valuable these are on their own, because they surpass the relationship of alternation to insert itself in the most profound reciprocal relationship. Voluteerism because volunteers know how to assume their limits and do not confuse reality with good intentions; we must make it clear that in the organization of volunteer work we must design realistic and feasible programs before disillusion and the loss of hope take over.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 01/24/2005