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Need For Volunteerism In The Third World [And How Pakistan And Africa Demonstrate It]

Posted on January 9, 2011 in Society

By Waleed Tariq (with inputs by Anshul Tewari):

Volunteerism, at heart, is an individual or collective effort of willing individuals, known as volunteers, to act in ways which work toward the betterment of oneself, other individuals, communities, and the society. Volunteering is one of the most basic acts of citizenship and philanthropy in our society. It is offering time, energy and skills of one’s own free will and is an extension of being a good neighbour, transforming a collection of houses into a community, as people become involved in the improvement of their surroundings and choose to help others.

By caring and causal to change, volunteers decrease suffering and disparity, while they gain skills, self-esteem, and change their lives. People work to improve the lives of their neighbours and, in return, enhance their own.

“Success in life has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others.”

With the developing world being in the process of rapid, yet uneven development, its geography, diversity and weak central governance, all factor an environment where volunteerism becomes a valuable need in the achieving progress.

Volunteerism enables the citizens to participate in growth, make the workforce more productive, and leads to a better informed citizenry able to demand better government performance. Community service initiative plays a noteworthy role in achieving long-term objectives involving policy improvement, environmental resource management, infrastructure development, and at the most basic level, health and education. Moreover, volunteerism in spate of natural calamities becomes a valuable component.

If we talk about Africa, over 50% of their population is below the international poverty line. While most of them are not sure where their next meal will be coming from and where they are going to sleep that night, governments in Africa overlook these issues and choose to ignore them. This is where volunteering is particularly important. Volunteers can get access to the poorest people and aid them in every way helping them with the prospects for the future.

Community Initiatives In Pakistan:

Pakistan has a powerful tradition of volunteering, as witnessed by its large voluntary part in October 2005 Earthquake, and considers it to be one of the important tools for addressing the problem of exclusion and provides a vehicle for empowering excluded population groups to gain access to opportunities.

Image courtesy: Zimmedar Shehri

With a rising focus on providing more activities for young people at a local level, the growing trend of youth being involved in Social initiatives is considerably increasing. There are numerous examples of volunteer youth groups facilitating youth engagement in the areas of health, education and empowerment. With the emphasis on community services and Volunteer work, Jaag Mere Taalib e Ilm andZimmedar Shehri are community initiatives from Pakistan, aiming to empower young people.

Jaag Meray Taalib e Ilm is a student welfare organization aiming at empowering the youth and creating awareness about responsibility towards the society.

After the bombing in International Islamic University, Islamabad and the announcement of educational institutions being closed around the country, a group of young, energetic social volunteers from Karachi met to plan a protest against the dreadful announcement of depriving students from their basic right of education for two whole weeks. With a committed team of forty members, it managed to pull of a remarkable protest outside Karachi Press club on October 24th 2009 and this is when JAAG Meray Taalib e Ilm, came into being.

In summer 2010, in partnership with Madagar Welfare Association, JAAG initiated a pilot project to adopt a school in Mehmoodabad; Summer Mentorship 2010. With over one hundred and fifty students from the vicinity, it facilitated teacher training, language training and renovation of the SAMS Academy over a period of six weeks. In addition to this, a library cum Art Room in the building for the students was also established.

Also, in the recent floods, without giving a second thought, JAAG galloped towards the flood stricken people with donations and items of immediate relief. In collaboration with the Students of Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (SZABIST), it set up a relief camp in Hyderabad, accommodating over four hundred people.

With steady developments in the ring, JAAG continues to grow.

Similarly, Zimmedar Shehri is a group of young enthusiasts, which came into existence just over a year ago and took up responsibility to change the face of Pakistan by developing civic awareness through their cleanliness drives. It began as a pet project of five middle class citizens all in their early 20s, determined to promote a sustainable initiative for civic satisfaction in the urban centres of Pakistan.

It started out in the full of life metropolis of Lahore, with an aim of developing community improvement through creative yet realistic approaches; whether its focus is on trash clean up drives, tree planting, clothes distribution, public hygiene, or any other area of social welfare. The core conviction of Zimmedar Shehri is that the power to improve a country’s situation lies with its people, and as a movement its aim is to empower the people of Pakistan to overcome the adversities of urbanized life; by taking action where it is needed.

Community Initiative In Africa:

Africa, one of the poorest and impoverished continents in the world, has been suffering since long. With Government failures in many countries, lack of political will in others, and a complete failure of the civil society in many, a majority of the African countries have had a heart wrenching past and face serious problems even today.

Image courtesy: Seed Of Hope Community Development/Seed of Hope seeks to serve the township of Bhekulwandle, SA, by providing community building initiatives for children, youth, and adults.

In the midst of hopelessness came forth community initiatives that have set new benchmarks and aim to develop the country, and not fall down without a fight.

African Community Initiative Services (ACIS) was founded in 2002 to develop the capacity for sustainable management of community-based organizations. Their mission is to promote entrepreneurship and sustainable projects “to lift the socio-economic well-being amongst local communities” and to create “employment through community-based local organizations” within African countries. The organization also aims to initiate awareness programs to advocate for the change of gender-biased policies. Such has been the drive of ACIS that in countries where people were fearful of raising voices, more community engagement and positive activism are spurring up.

Similar has been the Nholwasi Community Project.

The word ‘Nholwasi’ means ‘to build and work together’, and this project provides the opportunity to do just that. Working in partnership with Children’s Eco Training, the programme focuses on hands on environmental education among children in the Hoedspruit and Acorn-Hoek communities of South Africa.

The aim of this project is to make the generation of tomorrow aware, to teach them how to conserve and inspire them to appreciate nature in all its intricacies.

These were very few examples of volunteerism, which illustrate how philanthropy can extend in achieving a country’s long-term stability goals. It also highlights the growing need of community service initiative as it is always a valuable and indispensable contribution to the improvement of social conditions, promotion of economic development and empowerment of people to take charge.  It also reinforces a good judgment of collective responsibility bringing about a tangible difference to the lives of many.

This need will not end till we take up causes and fight to remove them from the root. The need is calling, are you ready?