10.06.2011Do not abuse social volunteering

Some years ago, I was asked to give a speech about Youth and Volunteering to a group of affiliates of a political party to encourage other youngsters to become volunteers “… it is a current trend and the opposition group will be ahead of us… volunteering seems to attract youngsters… nobody motivates them… they ignore everything… with so many liberties and so many beer bottles… then they forget about values… and then you see what their position is in the subject of immigration…”
You can imagine my feelings while I saw how they ignored the social function volunteering has. They only focused on political and ideological issues.
It is not fair to abuse the generosiy of volunteering for other ends. Those who abuse will destroy the strength of this social phenomenon. They pretend to organize from up top and with bureaucratic criteria an activity that emerges from the iniciative of citizens.
In another occasion, our NGO was called to pick up a prize for its work in the area of social volunteering. In spite of my usual rejection to prizes for this social service, which brings legitimacy to its passion for justice that is promoted in a globalized society where some people pretend to convert us into consumers, I was told it was to help in the delivery of books to Parimary Schools in Latin America. As soon as I arrived, I realized it was all a marketing strategy that a company was using to launch its products to the market. I was patient and calmly, I let my heart speak to denounce the sad trend that some people promote: “Place an NGO in our company.” It would be enough if the work conditions of companies were fair and their production and commercial processes were human and ecologic.
My disappointment was compensated by the words of the company’s president who thanked the fact that someone had revealed an imminent truth.
An important member of the government confessed to me that a new law was being prepared for a greater control of volunteering and of NGOs “because it is a sector of which we cannot fail to take advantage.”
This has nothing to do with the Volunteering Law of 1976, which states that “volunteering has become an instrument that is basic for the participation of civil society in social issues… and it claims a more active role in the design and the execution of social public policy.”
Some people seem to be incapable of decoding the signs of the new times.

José Carlos García Fajardo
Professor of Contemporary Social and Political Thought. CCS Director