Dressing ourselves as giant sharks and teaching children about the downsides of tuna industry is really just one of innumerable ways of investing your time into a good cause.
Yesterday was the International Volunteer Day. It was established in 1985. Its celebration every year on December 5 reminds us of the importance of volunteerism.
Personally, I have had several amazing volunteer experiences in different countries and wouldn’t want to miss any of them. It doesn’t feel like being charitable or doing social work, it feels like doing something you love with people you care about.
My first long-time volunteering was for AFS Switzerland. Over the years I have helped preparing many young people for their stays abroad and later I tought about Global Education topics. I also tried to contribute with many more volunteers to make young foreigners’ stay in Switzerland having a very special time. Throughout all these experiences, the one that learnt the most was myself. I reached and overcame my limits, learnt how to work with different people and especially I found out what are the things I really care about. Volunteering – meaning spending your time on things not for money but because you care about the cause – is definitely part of it.
Volunteering is not only important for you, of course. It is a key for making our society work. Many works would not be done in a purely market-driven system and many people depend upon others doing things because they believe in it. Volunteering is nevertheless not as widespread in all countries. Let’s see where people volunteer the most:
The World Giving Index divides Giving into three different aspects: giving money, giving time and helping strangers. Whereas Australasia scores highest amongst the regions for giving money and time (together with Central Asia), Northern Americans are most likely to help strangers. The report says: “In ten of the thirteen global regions, the most common way to ‘give’ is to help a stranger.”
In the Americas, Canada is the highest ranked country ranking overall 3rd – mainly for the 68% of the people helping strangers – and the 64% for giving money. The lowest ranked are Ecuador and El Salvador (115) with low scores on giving money and time. In Europe, Ireland scores best (3): the 72% of questioned people say they donate money. Serbia and Ukraine on the other hand come in on rank 150. In Africa, Sierre Leone ranks highest (11) because 75% of the people help strangers. Madagascar has the lowest rank: 153. In the Middle East and Asia, Laos scores highest (11), whereas China only ends up on rank 147. Australia and New Zealand share the winner position.
The study also shows a slight increase of likelihood of giving money for women compared to men. “While more women tend to give money to charity, figure 9 shows they are less likely to volunteer time than men in all regions except in North America and East Asia.” Men are also in most regions more likely to help strangers.
The outcome is defintitely only an indication since the report states correctly its limitation: “In some countries charities fund and run services that in others are provided by government. Helping family members is viewed as charitable behaviour in a number of regions whereas in others charitable behaviour is more commonly thought of as support given to a formally regulated charity.”
Wherever our country scores on the World Giving Index, the important thing is that we keep on doing this important work for our community. It is true that philanthropy has a long tradition in Australia and New Zealand and their giving is encouraged by the government; that is something other countries and people could be inspired by.
I hope you have all had an amazing volunteer day, keep doing what you do.