Paid professionals and social volunteering

Social movements that define history started with a group of people who were compassionate of other people’s misery and rose against injustice. They organized themselves in groups, suffered from incomprehension while they overcame difficulties and inserted themselves in the right spot in the social tissue.

They were like the call that the stitch made to the needle, like the acupuncture teacher’s answer.

Social volunteering acts as the net in the circus: it suspends the falling body, takes it back to its place and remains unnoticed by the public, which focuses on whatever happens in the show.

The authenticity of social volunteering is measured by the response before an unjust inequality or before an attack against freedom because life is perceived as the path in the search for happiness, which is inseparable from liberty and justice. History shows that there have always been compassionate people who have taken care of others. For religious, ethical or humane reasons. That’s why we should not abuse the term “humanitarian” and the pretension of those who claim that volunteering dues can be done only for religious reasons, even in an unconscious level.

Social volunteering is characterized for being a free-of-charge action, by its continuity, the volunteer’s freedom of choice, the insertion into a program within a serious organization, along with the knowledge and respect for the people in order not to confuse reality with expectations. Nothing farther apart from willfulness, intrusiveness, militant and dilettante attitudes, as well as assistencialism that creates dependence.

The experience of social volunteering is that if there is something better than doing good things and to do justice, it is to help other people do it.

On the contrary, one incurs into bureaucracy, productivity and sectarian action. From valuing quality, more importance is given to quantity. That’s how the decadence of social movements takes place. These movements become political parties, power groups or interest groups.

A debate over the role of professionals who work in NGO’s along with social volunteers is imposed. The professional can be volunteer, but if he perceives a salary and is not driven by passion for justice, he will make his organization lose its identity. The greatest value of NGO’s lies in its vocation for service, denouncing injustices and giving alternative proposals.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 06/07/2004