By Lata Jha:
If selflessness were a human embodiment, it would be an honest, upright cop for sure. So difficult to find, you’d think their kind is almost extinct, except for the potboilers. Society today has long moved from its selfless instincts. Volunteering, from what I can guess, is a little more than getting a certificate. It is mandatory in certain places and that is the only reason people make an effort. And why would someone like you and me want to devote a substantial amount of time to something that hardly seems to reap anything for us? We are all already pressed for time. There’s enough stress already with school, college, work and commitments at home. Doing the good deed can always wait for a more convenient time. One doesn’t have to kill oneself for the good of the world is what most would think.
And even if life isn’t that stressful, one always has better things to do. Volunteering is not something one would give priority to, simply because it doesn’t tend to take us anywhere. We’re all for the uplift of the world, and we might even pledge our financial support. But our time and effort are not things we can promise.
What can be done to promote volunteerism?
– Charitable and non-profit organisations should today try and go beyond the do-good-be-good formula. They need to make it exciting and challenging for volunteers and for those they serve. Volunteerism doesn’t have to be about being good and selfless in a boring way. It should give as much of a chance to learn and discover as any other pursuit.
– Field trips could be an exercise. If it’s a NGO that works with kids, for instance, both the children and the volunteers would enjoy some time out. They should try to do something that is not gruelling or heavy on the pocket; a trek maybe? Or an excursion to some place little known. It would involve research, not much else.
– Organisations that promote creativity (in any form) should plan exhibitions, of paintings, photos. There should be constant activity involved. Interesting exercises would make volunteers feel both involved and upbeat. It would be something they look forward to after school/college/work. Their inputs should be taken, and considered. They should be made to feel part of the cause and endeavour, and not just people there with a purpose. Their selfish instincts should be curbed.
– Volunteers should be encouraged to feel strongly about issues. They should have sessions with the organisation as to how the concern on hand could be tackled in the long run. If for instance, it’s an organisation devoted towards sex workers suffering from HIV/AIDS, they should be encouraged to visit these people, talk to them, report on their experiences. Journals and blogs could be attempted, maybe even cultural programmes for them.
The drain on funds would be a problem for sure. NGOs could possibly join hands for this. They could take one step at a time, moving from community to city to country. The kinds of causes they espouse certainly deserve attention. And volunteerism should be a lot about feeling one with the cause, working for and towards it, and not just for the organisation.
Selflessness is hardly something you can hope to inculcate in people, especially people as strong and driven of our generation. The only way you can get them to join a movement is to make them feel like what they are doing for it counts. Their time counts, so does their effort. It is not something they can abandon and move on after the summer vacation is over. It’s a spirit they shall carry with themselves all their lives.