There are many people that in some moment of their life – during the long summers when being a student, when the retirement comes or in the free time that our working life allows us – they consider to help some not governmental organization, to contribute by being a volunteer worker that can help to improve the situation of other persons.
The voluntary work is basic for some NGOs that would not work without this option. For others, nevertheless, it is a practically a rejected option because their task needs a more professionalized specialization. We have spoken with three different entities that have explained to us how and when they count with voluntary people and give us some clues to be able to be as useful as possible with the time that can be devoted to them.
The Fundació La Salut Alta, with headquarters in Badalona, carries out in their Centre Obert (Opened Center) tasks socio-educational for children and families on risk of exclusion, by providing school reinforcement and other activities of leisure and also lesson of Spanish and Catalan for immigrant adults. Maria Nadeu is the coordinator of the voluntary work, which is fundamental for this entity: “we are 11 contracted persons and approximately 50 volunteers; without them we would not be able to do anything”.
The only requirement is to be older than eighteen years old, to share the values of the entity and to find out in what kind of task each one can fit well. In Fundació Salut Alta it is possible to take part in activities of direct attention to children or adults, but also doing works of communication, management of the web page, production of materials of awareness and capture of funds, or in the maintenance of the facilities. The dedication can be from punctual or intermittent collaborations, as several hours per week, but in some of a continuous commitment is required: “in the classes of language for adults, for example, we need that the teachers could fulfil the schedule of their group during the whole course”.
Nowadays they need especially people with knowledge of computer science, databases, communication and marketing. And all in all they are opened for the help that everyone can offer: “we want to receive the people who want to help us and we do as much as possible to find a task in which they feel really useful “, Maria Nadeu explains to us.
This direct help, in our own environment, is the most accessible for the majority of volunteer people and the one that has more ‘offer’. Collaborating with organizations that carry out their task in other countries, a possible option to spend the weeks of holidays, depends a lot on the aims and the way of working of every NGO. Especially it is necessary to bear in mind that the volunteers’ work has to fit with a way of doing already established, and that every entity has their own procedure to guarantee a final positive result for the community where the support is offered.
The Direct Help Foundation (TDHF), as its name indicates, develops programs of direct help in Katmandu, Nepal. In words of its founder, Toni Aguilar, ” each person knows to whom or in what it is helpful, and we do not devote money to having an office in Barcelona, in order that all the resources come directly to those who need them”. And, because of it, the functioning is based on the voluntary work, beginning with the person who designs the web page, to the person who gives advice on legal topics, or different initiatives to obtain money, clothes or materials.
Right in the area, for example, there are doctors who go to Nepal and there they devote a few days to visiting children and women, of whom they can do follow-up later across Internet. “A voluntary work in the country of destination does not make sense if it is not to undertake a very specific task that needs the physical presence”, Toni Aguilar says. “We compare it with the task of the mother who taughts his baby to start walking: when the creature already can stay right by himself or herself, it is necessary to stop and give support at a certain distance, in order that he/she learns for himself or herself and fortifies with his/her own experience”. Aguilar recommends to be voluntary previously in some project near house: “often we want to be going to help far and not to see the need of the persons that we have more nearby “. This will help to know if the fact that, for him, it is the fundamental requirement to be a volunteer is fulfilled: “a great aptitude to overcome the difficulties and to be aware of the fact that not always does our ideal meet with the reality that we find in other societies and that the results not always are so immediate as the voluntary person would like”.
To collaborate in Nepal with The direct help foundation it is necessary to be finacee the trip yourself, a medical insurance and the extras. The foundation offers the shelter and to share what they have to eat. The duration is normally in the region of one week and one month. And it is necessary to plan especially in advance the specific tasks that will be carried out, in the activities that already that they have already in force.
Regarding Médicos sin Fronteras, on the other hand, it is not possible to undertake tasks of voluntary work on the area. Toni Luna, delegate in Barcelona, clarifies the mattter: “the international voluntary work can be useful in some contexts of development, but we offer medical assistance in situations of crisis or warlike contexts, and to guarantee the maximum quality we only can do it with contracted professionals”. In fact, the process of selection is very strict, they are needed to have two years of professional experience, “because we are not going to do practices, but to contribute attention and quality medicine “, and the minimal initial commitment is one year. “The experience has shown us that in the extreme contexts at which we are employed, if we do not make it like that it does not work, with the good will it is not enough”.
Instead it is possible that one can collaborate with this veteran NGO – it has more than 40 years already – in the offices of Barcelona or in those who have in other cities of the country, carrying out tasks of administration, management, finance, human resources, marketing, communication or awareness. In the web the vacancies are published from time to time, depending on the needs of each moment.
All in all, as these three examples prove, each NGO looks for the most suitable way of giving content to the persons who offer their time voluntarily, always with an objective in mind: that the service they give is as productive as possible for those who receive it. Because of it, if somebody wants to be a volunteer, it is necessary to get well informed and find where and how it is possible to be more useful. Because options to help are not absent.