Why should there be an effective mechanism to coordinate volunteer efforts.
Azra Caffoor
2 නොවැම්බර් 2019

The word ‘Volunteer’ can be interpreted in many ways with the most common understanding that it is when a person takes initiative towards a specific objective, especially helping other people, willingly and without being forced or paid to do it. However, at a time of strong economic development and progressing emphasis on education and stable employment, volunteering in Sri Lanka may begin to be seen as less important. With no strong mechanism to follow suit and inform the general public of the value and real contribution made to the economy by volunteering, there is limited awareness and hence people do not have dependable access to volunteering opportunities available.

Sri Lanka was one of the country adversely affected by the 2004 tsunami, with the death toll rising to over thirty thousand. At the end of it the country witnessed a significant number of local communities and organizations mobilizing a large number of volunteer resources to support the relief, recovery and reconstruction process. However, although volunteers have contributed in multiple ways to peace and development in the country, there have only been limited efforts made to evaluate or quantify the impact of volunteering. This is mainly due to the limited resources allocated to measuring the impact of volunteer action and the absence of an effective tracking mechanism.

Furthermore, there exists a large group of the population with profound interest in  volunteering and are willing and able to set aside their time and energy towards such activities including, the experienced retired senior citizens, school and University Students and professionals. It is evident that there is a lack of a coordinate effort to connect these volunteer contributions towards the national development.

Lastly, with no proper record and overall body of supervision, current outstanding volunteers contributing in their own capacity are not recognized at a societal level. Although commendable efforts have been made in this direction it is only when an official mechanism is in place, that outstanding volunteer contributions by individuals and organizations both can be coordinated and facilitated.

The contribution of volunteers is significantly towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the volunteer alone cannot be the force behind it. It is important to introduce an effective coordination and mobilizing effort for volunteerism to ensure impactful engagement of volunteers in the development, peace and humanitarian efforts of the country. With this in mind, Sri Lanka has now taken steps in establishing a Volunteer management and coordination mechanism known as ‘The National Volunteering Secretariat (NVS)’.

 

Azra Caffoor
2 නොවැම්බර් 2019
Azra Caffoor works as the Programme Support Assistant for United Nations Volunteers Sri Lanka. She holds a Bachelors in Economics from The University of London

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