For Free, But Not For Nothing
The Volunteering Act, adopted by Polish Parliament in 2003, specifies who can become a volunteer (parents’ consent is usually enough in the case of minors), for whose benefit they can work (NGOs, church institutions, local authority bodies), when an agreement has to be concluded with them (when cooperation period is in excess of 30 days) and who is liable for accidents at work. The text of the Act is available on the Department of Public Benefit's website. Links to other relevant legal acts, determining the requirements to be fulfilled by a person wishing to take up unpaid work, can be found on the website of the Volunteering Centres Network.
The authors of the Act hope that the modern regulations will whip up Poles’ interest in volunteering. At present it is not impressive: according to a 2011 survey 14.5% of Poles admitted having worked for a charity organisation. The remaining respondents excused themselves saying they had no time, although their health is certainly relevant, too (senior citizens are not so well as those in Holland or Germany) and just as relevant are the memories of the period before 1989, when unpaid work was compulsory.
Raising money for charities looks much better in Poland: according to the Centre for Public Opinion Poll, 62% of people make money donations to noble causes, and 45% pledge donations in kind. One-off actions are much more popular than systematic activities, for example money collections organised by the Wielka Orkiestra Świątecznej Pomocy (The Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity), which take place not only in Poland. More information can be found in a publication of the local office for statistics
If you want to get involved in volunteering in Poland, check two addresses: www.ngo.pl and www.wolontariat.org.pl. On the former portal, which is the Polish NGOs centre, you can put up your offer of unpaid help. You will find legal advice (also in English) on the latter, addresses of local volunteering centres and information relating to volunteers’ insurance. A special website for foreigners is also run by the Polish Ministry of Labour and Social Policy dealing with volunteering issues.
Interesting offers can be found in organisations and institutions, such as the Polish Humanitarian Action (among other things they help in Africa and in the Near East) or Jeden świat (One World). This association organises participation in work camps abroad. Sports volunteering offers can be found at www.volunteers4sport.eu, and if you are a student, you might find the Projektor Programme interesting, which is run by the Polish-American Liberty Foundation.