Social volunteering acts as a big net at the circus: it suspends the falling body, takes it back to its place and remains unnoticed to the public, which focuses on the show.
The authenticity of social volunteering is measured by the response to an unjust inequality or to an attack against freedom because life is perceived as the path in the search for happiness, which is inseparable from liberty and justice. History shows that there have always been compassionate people who have taken care of others for religious, ethical or humane reasons. That’s why we should not abuse the term “humanitarian” and the pretension of those who claim that volunteering activities can be carried out for religious reasons, even in an unconscious level.
Social volunteering is characterized for being a free-of-charge action, by its continuity, the volunteer’s freedom of choice, the insertion into a program within a serious organization, along with the knowledge and respect for the people in order not to confuse reality with expectations.
Social movements that define history started with a group of people who were compassionate of other people’s misery and rose against injustice. They organized themselves in groups, suffered from incomprehension while they overcame difficulties and inserted themselves in the right spot within the social tissue. They were like the stitch that came to where the needle pointed, like the acupuncture teacher’s answer.
Nobody “sends” social volunteers anywhere. They are called when they are needed, just like the blood arrives to the borders of the wound to clean it, refresh it and, if possible, to heal it. Our goal is not to heal, but rather to always take care in a subsidiary way.
If the opposite takes place, we would become bureaucrats moved by “productivity” parameters and sectarian action. From valuing quality, more importance could be given to quantity. That’s how the decadence of social movements takes place. These movements become political parties, power groups or interest groups.
A debate over the role of professionals who work in NGO’s along with social volunteers is imposed. The professional can be a volunteer, but if he perceives a salary and is not driven by passion for justice, he will make his organization lose its identity. The greatest value of NGO’s lies in its vocation for service, denouncing injustices and offering alternative proposals.
José Carlos García Fajardo
Emeritus Profesor of Contemporary Social and Political Thought. CCS Director
Translated by Carlos Miguélez