2011 is the European Year of Volunteering. It is the chance for the European Commission to celebrate the commitment of millions of European volunteer workers, but also to launch “a challenge to the three-quarters of the European population who do not do any volunteering. We would like to say to them that they can also make a difference.”
The definition of a volunteer is a simple one: a person who performs a service willingly and without pay. The impact of volunteers on an individual, as well as on a communal level is far reaching, though. A quarter of Europeans donate their free time without any remuneration in order to support schools, hospitals, and sports clubs, environmental protection, provision of social services and helping people in other countries. Their efforts, combined with those of the many thousands of volunteering organisations spread throughout the continent, make a huge difference to all our lives in countless, often imperceptible, ways. They offer their communities that necessary human support, which institutions often fail to provide on account of their, often, amorphous, managerial nature. Volunteers, on the other hand, choose beyond personal detachment and put their free time and energy to the service of their fellow humans. The reward is an increase in the quality of life, for everyone involved.
And where there is personal involvement, there are extraordinary human stories. In fact, sharing in the humanity of others is often reason enough for volunteers to dedicate themselves to a purpose. The creative and constructive power unleashed through voluntary activities is indeed a remarkably transformative experience. The video below is the story of Demetra Socratus, a young volunteer in Cyprus, working with children through the Cyprus Youth Board. It is her touching first-hand account of her experience with the International Childrens Film Festival of Cyprus’ bicommunal project, “Cyprus Artefacts in Action.”