Why should I spend my valuable time doing unpaid work?

Hello everyone, I am Katrina, I am 20 years old, and I am from Germany. I graduated high school in summer 2021 and decided to take a gap year in which I wanted to go abroad for volunteering. Luckily, I got the chance to be volunteering for Udruga Amazonas for the next ten months and therefore I will be writing every month an article on this blog related to the topic of volunteering.

What is volunteering?

To start from the very beginning, we first must find out what volunteering means. The word “voluntary” derives from the Latin word “voluntarius “, meaning “willing, of one’s free will,”.[1] Therefore, volunteering describes an engagement in which an individual or group performs work of their own free will and is usually unpaid.

Different types of volunteering

There are many types of volunteering. Walking dogs at the local animal shelter, leading a play afternoon at a senior citizens’ home, or giving language lessons to refugees are just some examples. The possibilities are many and that is what makes it so great. In theory, anyone can find a volunteering job that suits them and make a valuable contribution to the local community. Volunteers can participate in weekly or monthly activities, or sometimes help in case of emergency such as natural disasters.

Another type of volunteering is a long-term volunteering assignment abroad. There are many different programs for this, such as the European Solidarity Corps, an initiative of the European Union which gives youngsters in Europe the opportunity to contribute to a voluntary project in a different country. Therefore, you work in a project that fit your interests while gaining a lot of experience for yourself.

As you can see, volunteering can look very different. In the upcoming blog articles, we will learn about different forms of volunteering and get to know more people and associations that engage in voluntary activities.

What brings people to volunteer?

Now that we have clarified what volunteering means and what it can look like, one question remains to be answered. Why should one volunteer in the first place? Why should I spend my valuable time doing unpaid work?

Even though what I just wrote may sound a bit drastic and I assume that the readers among you know that not everything is about money, it must also be said that we live in a very fast-moving and often stressful world. Many people are very consumed by their jobs, and it seems that academic success is becoming more and more important to lead a successful life. And in order to have academic success we need to solely focus on that, right? I think the answer is no, not completely.  Even though we need money to meet our basic needs, it cannot automatically make us happy and overworking, in order to have a lot of money, often brings exactly the opposite.

Volunteering, on the other hand, can be enriching on many different levels. You usually encounter new, like-minded people and can make social connections. By doing something meaningful, and at best making a positive contribution to the community, you also do something good for yourself. After all, feeling like you can help and being actively involved in an important project can be very rewarding. In addition, voluntary work can be combined with a hobby and thus distract us from stressful everyday life and bring us to other thoughts.

My personal motivation to volunteer

For me personally, I have decided early on that I would like to do voluntary work after finishing school. In my last year at school, I researched about different possibilities regarding volunteering. When I found out about the European Solidarity Corps, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. Before I will start a degree and go back to mostly theoretical learning, I wanted to do something practical and contribute to a meaningful project. The possibility to combine a stay abroad with volunteering is great in my opinion. It offers the opportunity to discover a new culture and country, to meet many new people and gain new experiences. I am convinced that by getting to know a new culture and being in contact with people, you can learn a lot and grow with the challenges you may face.

In summary, for me personally, it seemed to be the optimal opportunity to do something meaningful after graduating from high school and to work in a social project while at the same time broadening my horizons and learning a lot of new things.

Finally, I must add that these are only some of my personal reasons to volunteer. Therefore, if you want to find out more about different kinds of voluntary work and meet interesting people and their stories about volunteering, stay tuned for the upcoming articles on the solidarity blog!


[1] https://www.etymonline.com/word/voluntary