During our workshop in Brugges, the 19 participants demonstrated the variety of possibilities to be involved in volunteering such as youth work, women’s NGO, yoga for sick people, music in the street and village community work.
The main motivations mentioned were: personal or beliefs (political, religious), a sense of responsibility for the community one is part of, and expectations by others to be fulfilled. Volunteering for the benefit ones own community is not necessarily positive, as we discovered. In the absence of general normative criteria (human dignity, interest of others, animal rights, ecological standards) even activities done for ones own group can easily become unacceptable for the society as a whole.
Volunteering is not necessarily done only out of free will. If ones own family or direct surroundings expect certain activities, the option to decide against acting often does not exist. In this sense, more traditional societies (e.g. in rural areas) often experience more voluntarism than other, more modern contexts. Finally, volunteering often fills gaps left by a state that cannot provide certain services. It also became clear that many of the earlier (often unfulfilled) expectations of the state, particularly public welfare systems were taken over by families and direct neighborhoods for free.OpenForum 10 – BrugesV11 – Volunteering 2011