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‘Unofficial’ volunteering as a steppingstone for voluntary work?

‘Oh, voluntary work? No thank you, unfortunately I have no time for that.’

‘I think I’m not the kind of person who would like to volunteer.’

‘It sounds really formal. How to start volunteering anyway?’

For some people, volunteering may seem like and unfamiliar or a faraway idea. Volunteering may feel like an activity that you have to engage in such an extent that there will be no space for your own free time. There are not enough hours in a day, work or studies take too much time, and the dog needs to be taken out for a walk too. On the other hand, people also question their own suitability. It may seem that a volunteer should already have just the right qualities or all the skills needed for the task. In addition to this, people may feel nervous about starting volunteering in, for example, an organization or a church because the activity is perceived very formal.

It seems that we have stepped out of such a bubble of self-doubt and uncertainty for a moment and noticed that volunteering is everywhere. It’s a part of everybody’s life in some form.

A good example of informal volunteering is the increased use of neighborhood assistance during the exceptional circumstances caused by the coronavirus. Announcements of volunteer cohabitants, which decorate the stairways of apartment buildings, open slightly the veil of volunteering even to those who are not yet very familiar with the activity. People offer to help, for example, with shopping groceries or dog walking. Solidarity and the meaningfulness of helping others seem to increase nowadays.

The exceptional circumstances have demonstrated that volunteering can be carried out in different ways. Informal or some less formal volunteering can be done on a small scale too. People promote their own, other people’s and their environment’s well-being every day. Someone helps their friend with homework or work. The other collects bottles and trash in nature. The third arranges free exercise classes online. The list is endless.

The exceptional circumstances seem to have shown that everyone has potential to volunteer. I believe more and more firmly that everybody has their own place in the field of volunteering. There are tasks in which it is possible to engage if you don’t have a lot of time. There are tasks in which you don’t need to have all the skills beforehand. There are also tasks which can be undertaken at a low threshold.

So, volunteering doesn’t need to seem like an odd or distant idea. After examining your life and everyday activities for a moment, you can certainly find that you have done voluntary work even to some extent. It remains to be seen if this more informal form of volunteering, which has grown in popularity during the exceptional circumstances, will fire up a sparkle in people to continue volunteering also in the future.

Text: Lia Pursiainen

An intern at Citizen Forum, student of social and public policy

Translation: Kati Merikoski

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