If you agree to take a job and do it for free, is it only the employer who profits? Voluntary work is becoming more and more common because you can gain immeasurable and intangible benefits. It opens the doors to new experiences, broadens the mind and teaches us new professional skills.
Volunteering traits include unselfishness and sacrifice. They continue to drive and characterise those who give their time and commitment without expecting a financial reward in return. Doing good and sacrificing for others very often helps us to find understanding and motivation in life. If we search for people's motivational factors, we can find the need to have contact with people and a necessity to improve self-esteem. However, there are more ground-breaking motives which of course may or may not lead us to take part in more institutionalised forms of volunteering. Volunteers consistently perform various free of charge duties, but at the same time they go abroad to do it and their employers cover the costs and provide, for example, annual professional internship, which is very useful in finding a paid job later on.
Where to start?
Are you 18-30 years old? Do you want to meet new people and see the world? Do you feel a need to help, gain new skills and experience in a profession? If yes, then you should find out what the European Voluntary Service (EVS) is submitting. Apart from the age limit, it seems to have an endless list of placements. These include opportunities to travel for 2 to 12 months, not only to many European countries but also to different parts of the world. There is always the same rule in all activities: "A volunteer is not paid for his/her work, but all costs are covered."
The first step to taking part in an EVS programme is usually to make the decision to do it. However, it will not hurt to start by reviewing the offered placements. At europa.eu/youth/volunteering/project_en - official website of the European Union, every potential volunteer (between 18 to 30 years old) can choose the country, beginning and end dates of voluntary work, and occupational profile. If they do not find anything desirable or interesting, they can keep looking. The Nationwide Network of Volunteering Centers can be found at volunteer.org.pl. In turn, the offers of Eastern, South-Eastern and Mediterranean countries are cumulated at salto-youth.net. The accredited organization's database has also been collected on europa.eu/youth/volunteering/evs-organisation_pl.
You don't even need to have experence
The sending and hosting organisations, which create the international volunteer exchange area, also help in selecting offers and preparing you for this new challenge. They guarantee training, free insurance and care during the volunteer placement. In such projects, organisations do not expect high knowledge related to the work or good language skills. First of all participants learn about what they will do for free and then participate in free of charge courses. Finally, they start volunteering work.
However, it is worth noting that projects are sometimes reserved for the country's citizens in which they take place. Another thing, the organisations that mediate in the exchange of volunteers do not help with getting a visa. Therefore, if a Polish citizen would like to apply for a volunteering trip to a country in America or Asia, where visas are normally needed, one has to go through this stage of the formalities alone. If you are going to an EU country, it is worth applying for a European Health Insurance Card, and considering buying additional insurance. Moreover, pocket money can also be quite useful. If the host organisation fulfils the agreement in terms of accommodation and food, it will not provide any money for extras, e.g. for souvenirs, night out in the pub, etc.
Be sure about your choice
The introductory training, usually conducted before the volunteering trip starts, is helpful for making friends and will later allow you to adapt to the new place and work.
From delight to disappointment and "never again" statements, the opinions of volunteers are very different. Some of them have experienced hostile comments from colleagues that they are messing with the labour market for working for free when companies should pay for it.
Opinions also vary in the case of the value of voluntary work in creating a professional position. "There is no reason to take part in a voluntary service if you are only interested in building your CV. Above all, a willingness to help is what matters. Only once we’ve be driven by a selfless desire to help, we can think about our own benefits, i.e. gathering professional experience and professional skills. And the best thing to do is to just try. Open yourself up to sacrifice for others and do not expect too much in return. This attitude will save you from disappointment," says Jakub Wieczorek, a 26-year-old, who for several summer weeks took care of disabled people in the Baltic Sea resort for free.
From a formal point of view, volunteering does not count as work experience. Even someone who is looking for paid employment and has registered with an office for the unemployed can become a volunteer without losing the right to jobless claims.
Don't jump into deep water, even if you are really motivated. Perhaps start by working close to home and without long-term commitment to fully convince yourself whether or not this is for you and if you are mentally strong enough to do such a job." Such practical advice from a more experienced volunteer was given to a student who wanted to face the first challenge in her volunteering life, leaving home for charity work in Africa.
Are we eager to go to work without a salary?
"In 2015, according to the Polish Central Statistical Office (GUS), the value of volunteering work in Poland provided within organizations and institutions amounted to 5.2 billion PLN. This is almost twice as much as e.g. Barcelona's annual budget, more than the annual budget of Wroclaw and twice as much as the annual cost of maintaining the State Fire Service," says Bartosz Grejner, Conotoxia Analyst.
"Last year's CBOS survey showed that more and more people decide to take up voluntary work. The authors of a statement entitled Social potential and involvement in social work have presented answers to questions which have been gathered for years, for example, do you have family members who work voluntarily and unpaid for your community, church, housing estate, village or city, or who work to benefit the poor? Starting in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2016, the number of respondents who answered "yes" rose as follows: 33, 34, 37, 40. The answers to similar questions, but concerning the circle of acquaintances, neighbours or co-workers, also showed an upward trend. There is also an increase in the percentage of respondents replying to the question: Have you ever worked voluntarily and unpaid? In 2008 "yes" amounted to 47% of CBOS respondents, and last year it was 59%,” says the Conotoxia Analyst.
On the other hand, the Polish Central Statistical Office published data on the time spent on social work within organizations and institutions. A year ago, Polish citizens, who were 15 years old or more, spent 261 million hours working, which would amount to 152.6k full-time employees. Slightly more time for volunteering in organisations was spent by women than men, 54% against 46%.
GUS data showed that Poles were most eagerly devoted to unpaid work for associations and foundations, than for churches, religious communities and religious organizations.