What is voluntary work?
Voluntary work is a form of social participation, which is done of a physical person's free will without establishing an employment relationship and without payment. Voluntary work is oriented towards an activity of public benefit and promotes the development of knowledge, skills and abilities, as well as the useful utilisation of leisure time.
Voluntary work conditions as defined in legislation can be found in clause 8 of the Law of Associations and Foundations, as well as in clauses 9 and 10 of the Youth Law.
Voluntary work is an experience, a challenge and an opportunity to improve your and other people’s quality of life!
Some facts about voluntary work
- Voluntary work traditions in the world date back to more than 100 years ago. This tradition was started by the Netherlands and the USA.
- In Latvia, targeted and organised volunteering has been developing since 1998.
- In total, 25% of Latvian inhabitants; however, just 4% do it on a regular basis (several times per week). On average, 30% of inhabitants of the EU member states engage themselves in voluntary work, whereas in the USA – it is more than 50%.
- Most often voluntary work is carried out by young people in the age group of 15-24 and inhabitants reaching the retirement age of 55 and over.
- In 2010, the monetary value of voluntary work in Latvia consisted of 82.558 million LVL, which is 0.65% of Latvia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The contribution of voluntary work to the national economy in the Netherlands consisted of 4.13%, in the USA – from 1 to 1.3%, France – 2.66%. Whereas the contribution of the voluntary work to economics in the Czech Republic is only 0.38%, Poland – 0.10%, Hungary – 0.11%.
- Within the framework of “Youth in Action”, there are 75 accredited European voluntary service organisations in Latvia, out of which 25 are youth organisations. These organisations put the international youth voluntary work into practice.
How and why to become a volunteer?
A volunteer can be any person willing to use and develop one’s abilities and skills, as well as gain new experience, by engaging in and affecting various public processes. Besides, voluntary work is not really about doing something that you do not like. A volunteer chooses the work and the amount of time to devote for this work in accordance with his/her interests and needs – this can be several days or couple of hours per month.
How can voluntary work be beneficial to its performer?
- Excellent opportunity to use and improve one’s knowledge, abilities and skills
- Make new friends and those who think-alike, sharing common interests
- An opportunity to get into circulation
- An opportunity to affect public processes
- Realise prospective ideas and perhaps even dreams.
Voluntary work for the youth is very important in their personality development process, because it is a way of how to make sense of such values as trust, respect, care, sympathy, etc. Voluntary work helps to acquire practical skills, by performing, working, shaping and developing the surrounding environment individually or in cooperation with others who think-alike. It facilitates a young person’s opportunities to fit into both society and the labour market.
Where to engage in voluntary work in Latvia?
Voluntary work can be done in:
- state and local government institutions
- associations and foundations
- political administration institutions
- religious organisations
3 steps to become a volunteer:
Step 1 – take a blank sheet of paper and write your fields of interest in which you would like to carry out voluntary work.
Step 2 – after having made a decision, find out which nongovernmental organisations or institutions perform the work in the field of your interest.
Step 3 – get in contact with the organisation or institution and express your desire to engage in its work as a volunteer!
There is nothing difficult or impossible, you just “need to step over the first feeling of timidity, choose the most appropriate organisation and open its door by saying – Here I am and I am willing to do something. You will definitely have your first tasks and will be able to try yourself in your field of interest that you perhaps would not have dared before.” (Latvian Youth Council. Periodical Neformālis. – Latvian Youth Council with the support of the Society Integration Foundation: Riga, 2006 – page 15)