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About volunteering and service

Оля Васильева
Оля Васильева
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25 days until the Olympics. Thousands of young people from all over Russia "got a chance of a lifetime" to become volunteers of this great event. But I am sitting here and thinking that something is wrong here, I just can’t call these people volunteers.


All sources define a volunteer as a person who voluntarily, consciously and gratuitously spends his free time and energy for the good of society. Guys who go to the Olympics seem to answer to the description. But still it turns out that this is not enough for me. My opinion, of course, is subjective, but still I (have been doing volunteer work for five years) give myself the right to discuss this topic.


Volunteers, as per my understanding, are the people who take the initiative in order to solve a social problem. Volunteers are there where the state fails. They, roughly speaking, fill social gaps. They signal the state and society that there is something wrong. And the Olympics, which show that we are a great prosperous country, are not a social problem (although it’s debatable).


People starting to be engaged in volunteering have many reasons, but among them there is still a desire to help someone, to change a social reality. Guys who go to the Olympics talk about the possibility to practice English, to gain some bonuses for a career, to watch the competition for free, to have a good time.


That’s why I can’t call such people volunteers. I can call them “voluntary operating personnel”. It is neither bad nor good, everyone does what he wants, and it is likely that it will be really useful. For me, the fundamental question is that this event discredits the phenomenon of volunteering, putting service of public activities on a par with the ideas of social service. Young people are starting to forget that volunteering is a community initiative, not an official order; it makes a point to help, but not to serve.


The danger is in the fact that it is a part of a larger process that began, in my opinion, with the issuance of volunteer books (and perhaps earlier, when I was too naive to evaluate critically the public policies in the field of volunteering), and continues up to now. We observe the emergence of a new species - "Volunteer of State"


I certainly don’t want to offend people who call themselves "volunteers of Olympics", which also declare lofty goals: something about representation of the Russian multinational people internationally, the increasing of national pride and patriotism level among the youth, etc. I am just for every phenomenon to correspond its name.


And by the way, one of the principles of volunteering reads as follows: "We are supervised by needs, not kings".


Original: http://7x7-journal.ru/post/36228

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