EAEA News 2009-11-30
Think Future, Volunteer Together
EAEA report form a conference on Volunteering, held in Brussels on November 19, 2009
Marian Harkin, MEP, opens the conference stating that 2011 is the year of the volunteer.
Currently, about a 100 million people volunteer throughout Europe. Of those, 5 to 8% has returned to society. Marian Harkin stresses the importance of volunteering because it brings along social inclusion and social cohesion and also leads to better intercultural and interreligional understanding. In addition, volunteering leads to better health, in particular mental health. The most popular fields of volunteering are: accidents and natural disasters, environmental issues, sports and culture. Another important aspect of volunteering is the fact that it stimulates intergenerational solidarity (a keyword according to Harkin). 73% of the people that approach retirement say that they want to volunteer. However, only 44% does actually volunteer. Harkin interprets this gap as being a big challenge for the future.
Izkowski, European Commission DG for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, mentions the fact that the population of Europe is getting older. As it is very difficult to have influence on demographical changes, policymakers should already start to develop adequate strategies to face these new situations. Izkowski also stresses the differences between the old and the new member states concerning the potential for volunteering. In the new member states people have less motivation to volunteer compared to people from the old member states. For example, in the Netherlands 26% of the population is involved in activities on a voluntary basis whereas in Poland this is only 5%.
Markus Held, director of the European Volunteer Centre, says that volunteering makes happy above all. He also points at the fact that old people have "real world" skills, for example listening to people, that young people do not have due to the fact that the younger generation is "online" in cyber societies. Held also mentions that the CEV Programme is linked to the Life Long Learning Programme and the Grundtvig Project.
Fonovic, SPES, Centro di Servizio per il Voluntariato del Lazio, gives a presentation of the Think Future, Volunteer Together project her organization has been involved in. The project gave older, mainly retired, people the chance to participate in an exchange programme. Several senior citizens from Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia travelled to one of the other participating countries in order to do voluntary work. Nearly all the people that went abroad want to work as a volunteer now. Fonovic also mentions the lack of cooperation between the organizations and the public institutions. The volunteering organizations were given little support from the local authorities. In addition, she criticizes the lack of environment and money the organizations have to deal with.
The main issues mentioned during the debate were:
- People are getting older but old people are getting younger
- The suggestion is made to mix activities under the life long learning programme; in particular to mix studies with work. It should be possible to take a break during your working period in order to study.
- Karl Erik Olsson, the European Older People´s Platform, proposes to pay volunteers. Both the majority of the panel members as the people in the audience disagree with him.
- More attention should be paid to the participation of migrants; older migrants do not participate in volunteer activities.
- In many countries older people are seen as a reason for spending more money. This attitude should change; older people should be considered as an active and participating group that contributes to society.
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