International Volunteer Day
What is volunteering?
Volunteering is defined as “an activity of an individual doing non-profit activities, out of his own free will and for the benefit of others or society and without expecting any material benefits” (Proposition of the Law on voluntary work in Slovenia (Act 6, 2004) made by the Legal Information Centre for NGOs in Slovenia (PIC) on the initiative of CNVOS (Centre for Information Service, Co-operation and Development of NGOs). Source, ZPD 2008, http://www.sodeluj.net/pic-ceetrust/images/stories/projekti/prostovoljstvo/besedilo_clenov-zpd_predlog.pdf).
Speaking more specifically about what volunteering is today, we can say that volunteering is a decision that is deliberately taken by the volunteer, with the intention of active participation, based on altruism and solidarity with the aim to benefit the society in different ways. The volunteers dedicate their time, energy and knowledge, but the expenses that occur to implement their work must be covered. This means that volunteering is not paid, but rather complements or supports the work of other agents.
When did it start?
First volunteering organizations in Slovenia emerged in 18th-19th centuries, and the church played an important role in the humanitarian and charitable field in that time. Before the Second World War, many non-profit organizations already existed, but after the creation of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1943-1991) many of them were banned or put under state control, although some survived as humanitarian aid (for ex. firefighters, or The Red Cross). After the collapse of the socialist bloc and the economic transition, the sector began to grow and develop again, and through the actions of non-governmental organizations, activities were established in the field of human rights, minorities, women's rights or ecology.
How’s it in Slovenia?
Although no official data are available, it’s estimated that there are between 280,000 and 350,000 volunteers in Slovenia, which is a big number, considering the overall population of the country
What sectors do the non-profit organizations mostly operate in? 27,6 per cent of them are in the sector of Sports and recreation activities, 17,7% - Culture and Art, 8,7% are active in Fire protection department, 7,9% work in tourism development. Smaller numbers of them also operate in Education 4.52%; Social welfare 3.6%; Protection of animals and plants 2.63%; Religious activities 0.83%. (http://ec.europa.eu/citizenship/pdf/national_report_si_en.pdf)
Why do volunteers volunteer?
The benefits of volunteering are numerous. Apart from the obvious benefits of nonprofit action for the community, we can add that volunteering, besides empowering and technical/professional support of organizations, facilitates the connection between beneficiaries and community, makes people aware of the problems of society, and help people to participate in cultural, educational or sport activities. It helps to integrate people from marginalized groups, and it is one of the ways that people show their commitment as active citizens.
It is also beneficial for companies and their workers, since volunteers can reflect different visions of reality, are more free to criticize and have greater credibility since their activity is not remunerated. (Ellis, The volunteer recruitment book, 1994). (http://www.iniciativasocial.net/indice.htm )
Even for the volunteers, the volunteering experience brings benefits: it strenthes the connection with the community they work with, helps to achieve laboral and personal experience, develops self-esteem and boosts up their social image in eyes of others. Volunteers become agents of social change and develops commitment and social sensitivity, they feel they do something meaningful for their surroundings and gain more confidence...
Source: MC Brežice, Eurodesk regional multiplier