Every month, everyday perhaps, new organizations are coming up. There is no denying it, and further more, there is no stopping them. While all of these organizations cannot be termed as well-meaning, a lot of these that do want to do good work have a tough time availing their aims and objective due to a certain lack of experience. And the same can be said about volunteers as they are often misguided or discouraged by some certain actions, few of such mentioned in Azmain’s and the Rainbow Penguin’s article previously in the series. So in order to do my part in helping the new volunteers and organizations (yes that is what I want to do, not diss them), I shall try to provide a sort of guideline in my following article through describing a few interviews and quotations of some very experienced, well-meaning and inspirational people. However I apologize beforehand, to anyone I may offend during the rest of my article. If in spite of this, you feel like sending threats and stuff, feel free to do so. So here goes:
Adviser and Finance Secretary,
1 degree initiative.
Q. Why, in your opinion are people in general losing the dedication that the old volunteers used to have?
Because of the sheer number of organization present everyone is doing almost everything, trying to achieve everything all together – rushing into things also, there is rarely any follow-up. Usually during community service, it’s not a one way service. When we try helping someone, its not that we are only helping him, but we are also helping ourselves. Starting from communication skill development, to handling different situation, all falls under the learning process.
Q. So do you think that the number of organizations should be reduced?
No, I don’t think the number of Organization should be reduced, as it has been started, why stop it? Let them continue, but they should care about what they are doing, consult with others, and evaluate their steps, plan and research before and after conducting projects.
Q. It’s become the “in” thing nowadays right? So after it dies down, it’ll be fixed on it’s own until then, how do you suggest that we should make sure that it doesn’t cause a lot of harm before dying down?
Well, its important people realize that having ones own organization is good, but without knowing how to handle one, without proper knowledge & plan, one should not take such initiatives. Having enthusiasm to help is very good, but trying to help someone without knowing how to help them will only cause more damage than good. This is what people don’t realize. They think having their own organization will bring a change. Yes, it does, but not in the way they expect. Also, it creates a tendency of “power”, something not to be cherished.
One thing we ALL should learn from our government is that power means responsibility which needs to be conducted properly. Gaining power and then not doing anything is of no use. If someone doesn’t realize this, that personal is no different from an illiterate Also; one thing they don’t realize is, according to economic term, resources are scarce. If we continuously use the same resources everytime for funds, use the same method of approach, use all volunteers for every project, at the end of the day, we will lose all that we have.
Q. And what do you say about the show offs that take part in every other event just for the “fun” of it?
Work is fun if you take it like that. We never said NOT to have fun. If you don’t enjoy the work you do, than don’t do it. If you still do it, stop doing it, as you wont do it 100%, which will make the matter worse. But there should be a balance between work & fun. Having ONLY fun is bad. Doing ONLY work is bad. When it is time to work, be serious, carry out the work, then have fun. Don’t do the opposite!
The new volunteers definitely will look for fun. It’s the responsibility of the heads of organizations & project coordinators to balance the work & fun of the project. Make sure, all the volunteers work equally, and that they enjoy at the same time. If one half works, and the other half enjoys themselves to their wish, then at the end of they day, the org. will lose both parties. One, because they don’t enjoy the work, and one, because they don’t take the work seriously. It’s important to grow the realization into people, make them more aware of the situation.
Q. No I meant the DSLR flashing, Rayban sporting, couple dating, sheesha smoking type of fun loving wannabe “volunteers” who “socialize” rather than doing social works
The thing is, the volunteers will do that. We cannot stop them from doing that. But what we can do is make them more aware of the situation. Tell them that community service is NOT only dating and sheesha fun. Show them the real picture of the world. When they realize their mistakes, automatically they will come to the right path. The older volunteers saw the world as it is, hence took initiatives. Nowadays volunteers are not getting/seeing the picture. The older volunteers need to help them see it, rather than providing them with more platform/project to continue their “FUN”.
Q. And any words to the new upcoming hopeful volunteers and/or organizations?
It’s good to see that they are becoming more aware about their country. There is a saying, “If you want to change the world, change yourself, and the world will change with you.” That is what our volunteers need to learn. Change oneself, develop oneself, at the same time help change/develop others, that way a true change will take place.
Central planning manager, PDF,
Vice president, Ashic Volunteer Club.
Q. Speaking about the present context, don’t you think a lot of people nowadays are losing the basic point of it, and more are joining simply because of the coolness factor? How do you see this?
Basically we have to make sure they don’t reach the leadership. We need volunteers- no matter what their motivation. if they donate 100 taka- it helps. Someone may not work but he may have a dad in police or politics- so that helps avoid trouble. We need people. But the leadership needs to be motivated and dedicated with a genuine cause. If they enter leadership – it is doomed.
Q. Don’t you think it’s important to somehow remind them about the actual goal??
Absolutely yes. It needs to be done quite regularly.
Q. So your suggestions are–?
Regular meetings- “jhari khaile lok thik thake”. Trust me, whenever you see that the organization did not have a meeting over a long period of time, people start losing motivation gradually.
Q. Why would you say that it isn’t happening incase of most organizations? Because the way I see it, it’s only common sense to follow those.
The thing is- suppose there are five people- 2 of whom have worked and 3 of whom have shown off. If you scold them all, the 2 who have worked will feel de-motivated. It is better to forgive someone guilty than to punish someone innocent. The best tactic is to gradually promote the responsible and dedicated volunteers. Since people aren’t working for money, incentive is what keeps them motivated. And as for regular meetings – they don’t happen because most of us get very very busy. This is why I support decentralization. Divide an organization into several groups with group leaders who can contact their subordinates more often!
Sabhanaz Rashid Diya,
Founder, GS and Advisor, 1degree initiative,
Ambassador for Bangladesh, One Young World,
Feature Writer, The Daily Star,
Global Fellow, Youth Action Net.
Q. How would you describe Volunteerism?
Volunteerism is an exciting and wonderful thing, it means you care. It is something you choose to do because you believe helping your community is your responsibility. I have utmost respect for every individual – regardless of age, background, academic stance, etc. – who have given time and effort to serve their communities, their countries. Cumulatively, we are a force that can truly change the fate of a country. However, like anything that is empowering, volunteerism – both the task and managing the task – are challenging things, and it’s important to understand that. It is important to understand that when each of us step under the sun to do something, we are much bigger than our weights and heights – we are shouldering the responsibility, the voice of those around us. It is important to be compassionate, insightful and authentic; and remember that we are not fighting to “right the wrong”, we are struggling to be just, equitable and allow every human being the right to live to their fullest potential – because some of us got that privilege while many didn’t.
Q. Why do you think that people are deviating nowadays in greater number from the actual spirit of volunteerism??
I wouldn’t use the word ‘deviating’ to begin with. It’s a trend, and like any trend, it has its peak and bottom. There was a time when underground music was popular and everybody you met seemed to be a musician. Now, it’s a different trend. Everybody is into volunteerism. The actual “spirit of volunteerism” is a complex thing. Literally, it means people who give up time and effort to serve those in need.
Q. Okay but the thing is, this rising tendency of volunteers showing off is discouraging more enthusiastic and well meaning people from joining the organizations, don’t you think??
Pragmatically speaking, volunteers aren’t generally supposed to be advocates of anything. They are intrigued, they are somewhat concerned and they just want to be part of something bigger. It’s the next step that is what people need to focus on, and really stop singling out the rest who move with the trend. And yes, if a trend discourages supposedly well-meaning people, then they really aren’t all that well-meaning.
Q. Well one of the people I interviewed, (suppose X) says: “During my time at College, I’ve spent countless days when I bought street kids food while I myself went without any food from breakfast till dinner. I visited sick old in slums, encouraged kids to attend the free school at our college. I even helped young boys fix rickshaws on roadside. The only reason I joined JAAGO was because I thought I could do more, by acting in a group. But now, seeing so many people doing nothing and claiming to be social workers, I kinda repent my decision and thinking of going back solo…”
Well-meaning people are meant to be advocates, not just a face. If they get easily discouraged, they shouldn’t be proclaiming to be well-meaning people. Development is a difficult field, and it has no short term rewards. It requires a thick skin, an open mind, dedication and resilience, and most importantly, ability to envision beyond what is seen and done. I don’t think it should be stopped, but I think every social activity – regardless of space, time, success and result – need to be evaluated.
Q. The existing organization, if they start losing actual volunteers like X, are going to be loaded up with trendy people, and thus could lose their value, and be just as good as extinct won’t they?? I mean volunteerism will go on no doubt, but being loaded up with trendy people, they are going to be the ones who approach extinction right??
Every organization – existing or newly formed – need to come up with its purpose and make that very transparent with the volunteers. So, yes – there will be superficial people coming and going, but those who are genuine will stick to the cause. You shouldn’t be a part of something because of the name or brand; you should be a part of it because you genuinely, honestly believe your contribution can play a positive role towards a cause you support. This cause can be something as simple as being more respectful towards your parents to being as vast and complex as fighting against poverty. So, whether “real volunteers” are pushed towards “extinction” is not the ideal question. The question is, whether such volunteers are real enough to not allow themselves be pushed towards extinction?
Q. I believe, a lot of the newer volunteers cannot live upto expectations, because they’re unsure about what they are supposed to be doing. What in your opinion should the volunteers be doing to ensure that they are on the right track?
I think it all bottoms down to personal intuition. Why are you doing what you’re doing? What about it draws you? If today, volunteerism is not longer trendy and taken over by something like graphics designer, would you still voluntarily serve those around you? How do you define service? What is the impact? What are side-effects? These are questions people need to ask themselves. These are questions any organization should ask itself, ask its people. That is what distinguishes everyone from you. Not an organization, not your facebook profile; but your genuine interest and honesty towards your actions.
Q. Yes well how do you suggest that the organizations do ask those? I mean if they just ask them like: “hi. How are you? Would you still work for a change if it’s not that cool anymore?” then obviously most will answer positively. What I mean is, how do you suggest that events should be evaluated in order to reward those who are actually into it because they believe they need to be?
Well, for starters there should be no rewards the reward is the work itself, a secondary reward takes away attention from the actual work, from the real intangible rewards – the experience and exposure.
- Secondly, establishing transparency. What is happening? Why is it happening? How is it happening? Things like that.
- Thirdly, evaluation is an extensive complex things and events are only tapping grounds. The actual work, the actual evaluation happens after the “event”. How is the outcome of the event changing the outcome of the people involved with it, or said to be benefited by it? Are they more economically empowered? Are they better educated? Are they receiving benefits? etc.
THAT is your impact. One of the ways of doing it is not be too carried away by the event, but by what comes after it. Another way of doing it is developing critical failure standards and following up on those over a length of time to see whether a difference is being made. The most crucial thing is of course to really not focus so much energy into the event, but the cause. Not look for short term rewards, but identify a way to move towards a long-term, sustainable and meaningful impact.
And here’s what I have to say:
Change yourself, change the nation, and learn to tolerate what you brought on yourself. “Rebuilding” means you have to break the existing structures first, so I’d rather much prefer if you “reformed” our beloved nation instead. Because even after all the bad things about it, it’s still my nation, one that I’d never see broken, not even to be rebuilt.
In the end, I hope to have provided, with a lot of help from the respected people I’ve interviewed (thanks again for the interviews), a sort of bare necessities in terms of rules that need to be followed while volunteering. I know these are supposed to be pretty much common civil sense. However it appears as ever that it’s is not nearly as common as we would prefer (and by “we” I mean all the people taking a stance against the irregularities taking place). I know that most people will say that it is far too big a dream to assume that we, at Um Not a Blogger, through this special series of ours, will have come close to solving the problem that took so much time, and so many people to build, I believe a Wise man once said, “Dream big, or don’t dream at all…”