The true value of volunteers

  The true value of volunteers

Lilima is a siSwati word which refers to a group of people coming together to help one another till their fields or similar work around the community.

The idea is that there is strength in numbers and when you come together you lighten the load and suddenly the impossible seems possible.

For Dr Jerry Gule, The Love Trust Chairman, International Volunteer’s Day, celebrated annually on the 5th of December is a reminder that together in collaboration, there is more that can be achieved. We are all connected, regardless of where we come from, and we are reliant on each other. The COVID pandemic showed in many ways that the world is intertwined, and the spirit of International Volunteer’s Day, is really about bringing humanity together to support one another.

How International Volunteer Day resonates with The Love Trust

The ethos behind The Love Trust is based on volunteerism. Without people volunteering to participate in and support our activities we wouldn’t be able to make a difference in our school, communities, and the country at large. Our tagline echoes this: together, we change a child’s life. It’s the effort of complete strangers, who for the sake of someone else come together, in this case children, to say, “How do we make a difference in the lives of these children?” 

How volunteering impacts the social and economic development of South Africa

If you look at the needs of South Africa and across the continent of Africa, the needs are so mammoth that the state, the private sector, and communities themselves are overwhelmed. Without volunteers and the support of donors and partners, certain sections of our country and economy would collapse. Volunteerism has a direct impact on the social and economic development of our country.

The impact of COVID is still felt today as many good NGOs, had to close. For Dr Gule, even one less volunteer in the world for one day has a huge ripple effect and it’s why he feels so passionately about encouraging people to volunteer; to give of themselves without expecting anything in return. Because that’s how we uplift a community and how we strengthen our bonds as fellow citizens and as a nation.

Common misconceptions about volunteering

The role of a volunteer seems almost futile to many, as the common misconception is that people don’t believe they’ll be able to make a difference.

In contrast, anyone, regardless of skills, education, and wealth can help. You just need to take the opportunity to be a role model to a young person, by simply being available.

Another misconception is that when calling for volunteers, organisations actually want your money. Yes, there may be minor expenses involved such as transport costs but often volunteering is just about giving a bit of your time. For vulnerable children in poor communities that could mean the world. By simply taking the time to show that you care, you give confidence to a young person who may be hopeless. You can open their eyes to something completely new; thereby opening a world of possibilities.

Safety is also a major concern for people considering volunteering, fuelled by truth, and inflamed by prejudices. Simple precautions can be taken to lower the risk of exposure to criminal activity. Communities embrace volunteers as part of their own and make the effort to impart knowledge and advice to help protect volunteers and steer them away from dangerous situations.

What NGOs and NPOs look for in volunteers

There must be synergy between what their values are (what drives them and shapes their lives) and those of the NGO or NPO. It’s also important to be as transparent as possible. Let them know exactly who you are and why you need them. This will become their baby, not just yours, as they are investing themselves in this endeavour. If the NGO and NPO work with children for example there are naturally a host of other vetting criteria involved to ensure the safety of the children. Dr Gule points out that you’d want these volunteers to be ambassadors for your organisation as well.

Celebrating our volunteers at The Love Trust

International Volunteer Day is a great opportunity to thank all our volunteers for their time, effort, and care that they’ve contributed. Your on-going support leaves a lasting impact on the lives of our learners.

Visit our volunteers page to find out how you can get involved at The Love Trust.