“Real living is living for others.”
Since ancient times, people in India have believed in social work and maintaining a community life guided by the ‘we’ feeling. Initially, this may be because of their religious beliefs that these voluntary and selfless acts may help them attain spiritual salvation or as a redemption of their sinful acts. After independence, many voluntary organizations were established as people understood the importance of freedom of speech, democracy and the importance of brotherhood. The role of NGOs in India has evolved from fighting against the social evils of the society to more diverse social, political and environmental issues of the society.
As India is a diverse country with a large population having different religious and political beliefs, the problems faced by each community is not addressed. Along with the religious and political beliefs, there are numerous environmental, social and developmental issues in the country. People don’t necessarily trust the government to deal with all their issues so to deal with them, individuals come forward as volunteers and provide help in various ways ranging from direct benefits to empowering people in order to improve the socioeconomic status of the communities in need.
According to the World Bank, there are two types of NGOs Operational and Advocacy. Operational NGOs focus on developmental areas whereas advocacy NGOs focus on some particular issues. Most of the NGOs are a blend of both. In recent times, the work of NGOs has diversified to deal with children’s education, substance abuse, civil rights, emergency reliefs, sustainable development, animal rights, environmental issues, etc. In theory, everything seems perfect but in reality, NGOs face a huge problem of lack of volunteers. Why is there a lack of volunteers? In order to understand this, let’s understand who is a volunteer? A volunteer is a person who offers some services without any expectation of being paid. Most of the NGOs don’t pay salaries to their volunteers as their main motive is not profit but the betterment of society. This is one of the reasons that some people hesitate to volunteer as they believe in not providing their services and time without getting paid in return. The volunteers are led by their self commitments and passion to help. Another reason for the lack of volunteers is the lack of flexibility in their work routine. Since volunteering is hardly ever encouraged while still in school, people find it difficult to inculcate this into their day-to-day lives. Another common reason is that people believe that since no one asked them to volunteer, they are not supposed to. There are nearly 3.4 million NGOs in India, but these NGOs won’t be able to achieve their goals if there’s a lack of volunteers as they are their only backbone.
Many schools or colleges make community service mandatory for the students in order to complete their degrees or education, also known as mandatory volunteerism. For example, NSS in Delhi University and similar provisions in almost all the other private universities in India. Most of the colleges also have separate clubs or communities that work towards social services. This helps in giving the incentive to the students to volunteer. This acts as an initial push for the students towards social work and community service. Since India has a large youth population, it leads to increasing the workforce of NGOs.
This year, many mandatory volunteerism courses had to be modified into some simple virtual tasks as the students could not volunteer in the summer vacation due to the ongoing global pandemic. The global pandemic due to the COVID19 has created more difficulties for the people as well as NGOs because their operations have slowed down due to the lack of mobility and as most of the things have gone virtual. All the NGOs have to conduct online recruitment drives during the pandemic to recruit new volunteers including SK Children’s Foundation. The recruitment drive of SK Children’s Foundation took many creative stages in order to evaluate the potential of the candidates. It included some standardized forms to be filled according to different roles, followed by personal or panel interviews.
Even most of the NGOs works have transformed into virtual mode due to the restrictions on the mobility of the volunteers. Since all the school and college classes are conducted online, NGOs advocating for the children’s education are also not lagging behind and conducting online classes for their students. SKCF’s teacher volunteers conduct their weekly classes through a Google meet. Not only studies, but volunteers try to conduct regular fun sessions with the students so that they are as active as they would be in the normal classes. It’s fascinating to see organizations primarily run by volunteers doing such great work so that the learning process of the students doesn’t stop. These organizations including SKCF have a formal structure of management with a core team, several heads for different teams, mentors, etc. The volunteers feel attached to the common cause and thereby feel personally responsible for their actions and thereby take initiatives to constantly improve the functioning of the organization.
Volunteering enhances several qualities of a person like teamwork, commitment, time management, leadership or strong work ethics, etc. In volunteering, most of the tasks require teamwork, so it helps in learning and improving the team working skills of an individual. A volunteer is led by his/her sheer commitment to a cause and a volunteer’s time management skills are enhanced as the tenure of volunteering increases. Volunteering provides a person with many opportunities to lead a project and the ones who grab them to enhance their leadership skills.
Volunteers are needed now more than ever when India is facing so many problems along with the global pandemic. The youth population needs to step up if they want to see a change in society and the future of this country. People need to think beyond their own four walls and realize how and where they can make a change. A change won’t come on its own but needs to be together worked upon slowly and gradually.
MUST-READ: LIFE OF AN NGO