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Authentic volunteering first, building CV last

no picture UNESCO Youth
Member since March 16, 2017
  • 10 Posts

The United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Volunteer Report (UNDP, UNV) (2015;13) estimates that there are 1 billion volunteers worldwide. International Federation of Red Cross, Global Volunteering Review Report (2015;3) points that as many as 17 million volunteers participate in 189 countries. If there is such a substantial number of volunteers worldwide, and we tripled it to 3 billion, we could have state and non-state institutions responding faster to service delivery than now; responding quickly to advancing quality education, health services, economic development, emergency relief services, combating conflicts, promoting sustainable peace and building strong governance. With a growing number of volunteers it is important to deliver standardized, professional and ethical volunteering that has the interest of community development as a priority.

With unemployment challenging societies, the purposes for volunteering are changing. Volunteerism can be packaged and advertised as an easy gateway or prerequisite to employment experience, a concept that can destroy the good mandate, authenticity and professionalism in volunteering. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with gathering volunteering experience to move up the career ladder, it is sadly producing collectors of experience more than community builders, transformation agents and serving leaders.

Volunteering is realistically about lending a helping hand where it is mostly needed and changing lives- a theory that is often not understood, simplified and become practical across most volunteering engagements. I believe that volunteering should be a non fair weather servant leadership, a botho or Ubuntu (humanity) centered passionate choice and commitment of ones resources that includes time, money, skills and energy, without expectation of a gain or reward on those resources invested in volunteering.

Non fair weather servant leadership in volunteering

Non fair weather servant leadership in volunteering is the first and most crucial standard that I believe volunteers share and uphold. It means that a volunteer is present in good and bad times, not when it simply benefits them towards constructing a favourable face of the Curriculum Vitae (CV). People volunteer to serve the needs of vulnerable sections of the society prior to considering accumulating experience on their resumes. The most central practice that servant leaders in volunteering subscribe to is that they serve others before they serve themselves, hence the statement “leaders eat last”.

Servant Leaders are also crucial for opening paths where the mountains are rocky and huge, they go the extra mile to discover resources that will assist in constructing those paths, meaning they go extra mile to deliver authentic community development. Servant leaders know no boundaries or frameworks.

It is through servant leadership that civic engagement is strengthened, accountability by state and non-state Institutions promoted, democracy pioneered, peace efforts deepened and responsiveness of various institutions is widened to serve and accommodate majority of the population.

Botho or Ubuntu (humanity) in volunteering, it’s all about the people

Humanity underpins professional, authentic and ethical volunteering. It is in humanity that it is understood in Sesotho language that motho ke motho ka batho ba bang or “we are because of other people”. It is in IsiNdebele language we also understand that izandla ziyagezana, “one hand cannot wash itself, it needs the help of the other" or “Many hands make the work become light.”

Humanity goes beyond saying “please and thank you”, it goes beyond being seen volunteering, but actually feeling deep rooted compassion and kindness for the other. It is understanding from the bottom of the heart the importance of clothing the community with dignity, changing lives and unfavourable conditions, bridging gaps between the society and understanding there is no future where there is no oneness.

Passionate choice and commitment of resources

Volunteering sometimes may not be a honeymoon experience, volunteers can work in disease afflicted areas, risking their health. Volunteers can be found in war stricken areas, risking their lives. Volunteers sometimes do not even have the resources to steer the work at hand making them prone to either acquiring diseases or even getting killed. Yet many volunteers, being servant leaders driven by humanity, will often stay committed to transforming unfavourable conditions.

There is one word that keeps volunteers authentically delivering professional and ethical volunteering in times of hardships outlined in the above paragraph, passion. Passion in volunteering is the driver that keeps volunteers going, where in hardships one's own resources are committed. The choice of volunteering is not turned against in tough times as a result of passion. The pain endured by volunteers is turned into happiness. In the midst of scarce resources it drives generosity and unleashes that Samaritan that believes in collective development. Volunteering without passion lacks sustainability, endurance for pain, leadership, and love.


Packaging and advertising of volunteering as a gateway towards gaining employment experience misses the true essence of volunteering. Delivering authentic volunteering is deeply rooted in the heart and in humanity, Botho or Ubuntu.

Zwelithini Matsoso

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