Reasons for a quest

The reasons that induce people to volunteering vary and, in the majority of the cases, these reasons are legitimate. We could point out Altruism, Philanthropy, Solidarity. Political commitment and citizen participation. Religious motivations. Free time. An escape from personal problems. Being aware of other realities (curiosity, sometimes even lustfulness...). The quest for social justice. Feelings of guilt. The quest for human relations (meeting people, searching for friends...). The quest of a work experience (there are those for whom volunteering is a way to enter in certain professional areas). A quest for limits and of a personal challenge (a close adventure that is cheap and that entails risks that can be easily assumed).
The volunteer is a person who seeks. Sometimes the motivations for that quest are positive. Sometimes they are doubtful if not negative. However, it is true that knowing the real motives of the person who arrives wanting to be a volunteer is very difficult because rarely does one single reason exist. Different reasons mix with one another and it is difficult to separate them. Just like psychic happenings, motivations can be overdetermined. A person can arrive at an organization wanting to be a volunteer because her father had Alzheimer and, after his death, she decides to help families that are in the same situation. But at the same time, she is a housekeeper with grownup kids and she is a little bored. Besides that, she has always been interested in helping others and she hasn’t made the decision until now...
Some people feel intimidated because they consider their own reasons to be “worse” or “inferior” than those of other people. On the opposite side, many people feel they are “unique” in their extraordinary motivations. Some people approach volunteering with the spirit inflamed with sublime feelings and, after two weeks, they lose strength and abandon the quest for whatever reason. Others were simply “walking by”, without major pretensions and then discovered a human profoundity in the other person, a profoundity that makes them reach unexpected commitments and responsibilities.
That is why any person can be a volunteer, no matter what is the personal situation and the reasons that induce him or her to make the decision. Motivation has served as an excuse to make that decision. Now, it must be transformed to a work in accordance with some objectives and a methodology that contemplate the discriminated person as the real main character. The organization and the volunteer must look out for which service is assigned, which formation and what support are offered and what is the correct attitude to develop it with success.

José Carlos Gª Fajardo
Translated by Carlos Miguélez

This article was published in the Center of Collaborations for Solidarity (CCS) on 01/03/2005