It would be difficult to image Finland without volunteer or peer work.
Volunteers work in over a hundred thousand organizations, which in one way or another involve every Finn. They maintain camping sites, beaches and community centers. They offer peer support, produce information, influence and advise.
A huge number of us Finns, 43 per cent, volunteer. Which is no wonder, as volunteer work has been known to increase the wellbeing of volunteers. However, many organizations lack volunteers. Even volunteer work builds up.
It doesn’t have to be like this. According to surveys, many people would like to participate in volunteer work, but don’t. In order to distribute the amount of volunteer work and its benefits more evenly, these people need to be involved in volunteering.
What gets people into volunteer work? Everyone has their reasons, but what connects them is the feeling of getting something from volunteer work. I started to volunteer because I wanted to make an impact, learn something new and meet new people.
One obstacle that keeps people from volunteering is the lack of information. Not many people know of all the possibilities volunteer work can offer.
Municipalities have a lot to gain from civic activities. Organizations add to the services offered by the municipality and opportunities for leisure activities improve the public image of the municipality. Therefore, it would be beneficial and economically advisable for the municipalities to support these organizations.
Besides monetary support, municipalities could also offer free facilities for organizations. Good facilities are prerequisite for operation, and if activities are hindered by the lack of facilities, everyone loses. Many municipalities have had good experiences from community centers, where it’s easy for organizations to hold events together.
The role of organizations in municipalities is growing. When health and social services become the responsibility of the counties, municipalities are responsible of the citizens’ wellbeing and improving their health. The role of organizations has always been very important in these issues. In the future, municipalities should work closer together with organizations.
However, municipalities should not use volunteer work in order to save money or to fix problems caused by the health and social services reform.
The most important thing is the people’s will to act.
Organizations have much to give to all of us. At the same time we can all think, what we have to offer to an organization.
Text: Krista Mikkonen, member of Parliament
Chairperson of the Green party’s parliamentary group
Translation: Jenni Mäkelä
Citizen Arena (Kansalaisareena) started municipal elections spring by offering ”Eduskunnan vapaaehtoistoiminnan tukiryhmän” Thank you, you are important -challenge campaign participants the opportunity to write to VerkkoAreena/Nätarenan/Webarena about peer support, volunteer work or civic action in their community.