Inclusivity in Youth Volunteerism towards a Progressive Future
Hakshala David
29 ඔක්තෝබර් 2019

Introduction to Volunteerism

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” – Mahatma Gandhi

Volunteerism is a basic expression of human relationships. The ethos of volunteerism is infused with values such as solidarity, reciprocity, mutual trust and empowerment, all of which contribute significantly towards quality of life. A society which supports and encourages different forms of volunteering is likely to be a society which also promotes the well-being of its citizens. Though the world is rapidly growing in terms of technology and infrastructure, volunteerism brings an altruistic expression of value.

Inclusivity in Volunteerism

More than 1 billion people volunteer globally, the majority of them serving in their own countries. In Sri Lanka, the rate of volunteerism is recorded at 48%. In this context, the question that we all must ask ourselves is, “Why is it only 1 Billion? Why is it only 48% and not more?” and that brings us to the crucial aspect of Inclusivity.

‘Inclusivity’ is the involvement or participation of a person with a form of difficulty that is limiting the opportunities to get involved within mainstream volunteering. It can be further defined as volunteering opportunities that are available to all people regardless of age, culture, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, social status or disability. Inclusivity demonstrates how values inherent in volunteerism creates diverse pathways for marginalised groups to overcome the barriers of social exclusion, while enabling them to become drivers of development action and advocates for sustainable peace.

Youth and Volunteerism

There are more than 1.2 billion young people (between 15 and 24 years of age) in the world today, in fact the largest group in history. As a result, the world’s focus and attention is sharply shifting towards youth to bring about social change and progress. Youth contribute over $35 billion per year in volunteer hours and are more likely than any other age group to have volunteered informally in the past years around the globe.

It is estimated that the youth population in Sri Lanka is about 4.8 million which is nearly 23% of the total population representing the prospective change agents and promoters of peace, reconciliation and sustainable development. In Sri Lanka, Youth Volunteerism is one of the effective modalities which has an inclusive approach in all four aspects of volunteerism namely, mutual aid or self-help; service to others; participation or civic engagement and advocacy/campaigning.

Why Youth Volunteerism

Volunteerism promotes positive citizenship among youth by encouraging them to be more engaged in their own communities through identifying differences. It contributes substantially towards building social inclusion by strengthening of networks between young people and their communities and giving those volunteers a sense of feeling to respect their society. This in return develops a better understanding of the potential asset that youth represents in today’s society.

In Sri Lanka, youth volunteerism is regarded as a civic participation mechanism. Youth inclusive volunteerism can be a powerful modality for giving youth a voice in decision-making and continuous engagement in volunteerism could possibly help the youth to take their first step towards long-term involvement in sustainable development and establishment of peace and harmony.

Youth Volunteerism and Employment

While volunteerism is focused on helping others, perhaps the biggest benefits to volunteering are reaped by the volunteers themselves. Volunteering is associated with a 27% higher chance of employment for youth through developing both hard and soft skills.  Studies suggest that youth volunteerism contributes to identity development, enhancement of skills (including increasing job marketability), increased self-esteem, development of empathy for others and other improvements related to positive youth development. Often, volunteer endeavours also facilitate the development of significant networking.

Research also suggests a link between youth volunteerism and skills development beneficial to young entrepreneurs. Youth entrepreneurship faces the constraints of lacking experience, relevant skills and knowledge, leadership and management skills, strategic thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills. Therein, inclusive youth volunteerism tends to address the aforementioned shortfalls and enhance the required skills.

It is important to highlight that volunteerism can complement formal education by teaching young people practical skills that enhance their employability. Inclusivity in Youth Volunteerism also assists young people in making informed decisions about their career paths. This intervention is far beyond important given the competition for jobs in the current labour market.

Conclusion

In the current context of our society, volunteerism can no longer be identified as an activity which is performed during our leisure time. It is something for which every young person needs to make time in order to positively contribute towards a progressive future. Everyone has something to contribute and every young person has unique set of skills which can be applied positively towards volunteerism in order to increase inclusivity, diversity, benefits to the society, altruistic value and ultimately create the leaders of tomorrow with better skills and capacities.

 

References

Sustainabledevelopment.un.org. (2019). [online] Available at: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/119520443_UN%20Volunteers%20POST-2015%20Brief%20-%20Social%20Inclusion%20and%20Volunteerism%20WEB.pdf

Unv.org. (2019). The power of volunteerism | UNV. [online] Available at: https://www.unv.org/volunteerism/power-volunteerism

Kahana, E., Bhatta, T., Lovegreen, L., Kahana, B. and Midlarsky, E. (2019). Altruism, Helping, and Volunteering.

Undp.org. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.undp.org/content/dam/rbap/docs/Research%20&%20Publications/democratic_governance/UNDP-ILO-UNV-2018-Youth-Volunteerism-and-Skills-Development-Asia-Pacfic.pdf

Un.org. (2019). [online] Available at: https://www.un.org/esa/socdev/documents/youth/fact-sheets/youth-volunteerism.pdf

Extensionpublications.unl.edu. (2019). [online] Available at: http://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g1750.pdf

Toknowpress.net. (2019). [online] Available at: http://www.toknowpress.net/ISBN/978-961-6914-23-9/papers/ML2018-201.pdf

Hakshala David
29 ඔක්තෝබර් 2019
Hakshala David is the Youth Coordination focal point at United Nations Volunteers, Sri Lanka. She has been actively contributing towards volunteer mobilizations and supporting youth initiatives conducted by UNV. Her goal is to improve the standards of living of young people who are marginalized and restricted from equal access to their rights and opportunities.
 

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