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Power of volunteering

As Barack Obama said in his victory speech last week, “....your role of citizen does not end with your vote”.

It appears that our country is finally realising that there is a need to move away from a charitable helpless model to a forward looking helping model
- Andrew Azzopardi

But what happens when people find themselves left out of communities? Who is missing out and why does it matter? What can one do to narrow the gap between the people and ‘their’ communities?

Voluntary work is part of the ‘working’ solution because volunteering is essentially an experience that is set to sterilise the soreness that lies at the heart of our communities.

We need to recall that the notion of well-being emerged from the requisite to negotiate and reinvigorate the social responsibility for collective needs. It appears that our country is finally realising that there is a need to move away from a charitable helpless model to a forward looking helping model.

It was an effort that saw at the forefront the principles of help versus helplessness, solidarity versus belittling and participation versus competition.

Along the years, in more ways than one, voluntarism started taking on and complementing the government’s welfare responsibilities, minimising social tensions and going against the grain of community deterioration. Voluntarism is largely a manifestation of benevolence, goodwill and compassion towards all those who lie at the fringes of society.

For all intents and purposes, it’s a phenomenon constructed around self-sacrifice.

One just cannot miss out the myriad of formal and less formal inventiveness that happens in every one of our communities, villages and towns piloted by so many committed individuals.

As a State we are in duty bound to value this energy and resource and create the necessary infrastructure to support these initiatives. Because volunteering is the power source that safeguards our moral currency. It is the road map that defines and develops the social conscience.

Volunteering contributes immensely to the creation of bonds of trust and solidarity. It brings neighbourhoods, communities and society together. It gives us purpose, it provides a common objective and it takes us beyond ourselves. “Volunteerism” is about engaging with sources, resources and the respective networking that will make it work.

Participation in civil society is increasingly recognised as honourable and virtuous. Promoting a civil rendezvous is not about trying to fit everyone into the same mould or creating the model of what should represent a “good” citizen but it is about enabling citizens to make their own decisions and to take responsibility for their own lives and the management of their own communities.

Essentially, civil engagement is related to qualities like social and moral responsibility, a strong sense of identity, political engrossment and community connection. Volunteering edifies us to do all of this.

People participate actively in society to shape their own future and to contribute to the development of their communities.

We need to keep nourishing this sector which does not exist if not nurtured adequately. Apart from the obvious needs like funds and infrastructure, NGOs are fostered when they are involved in the decision-making processes.

We need to keep in mind that we have poor and socially excluded people in our midst, people who are living hand to mouth and the slightest predicament will have an immediate negative impact on them.

We need to ensure that the voice of every citizen is considered as important and relevant.

We need to have the courage and the de rigueur social mechanisms to identify the groups and individuals that have fallen or are prone to falling by the wayside

We need to identify the scale of the values that the dominant groups in society possess.

We need to make sure that the country’s social policy guarantees that the values of liberty, equality and engagement lie at the heart of our communities.

One organisation I have got to know closely these last years that has, in my opinion, moulded itself from a charitable mindset to solidarity based on civil responsibility is the Malta Community Chest Fund. In other words, they have tried to recreate the balance between generating a kitty mentality and breeding community, which I feel they have done well.

The quality of life of any population is an important concern for all. I think that all of us should take part, in our own little way – believe me it makes us betterpeople living in finer communities.

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