Curiosity and a desire to help are the driving forces that move millions of people to volunteer around the world. People who help, accompany, educate, guide and teach those who need it most in exchange for nothing. And, in spite of the scourge of unemployment, which has affected young people especially, a high percentage of these see voluntary work as an opportunity to learn about other situations, develop interpersonal skills, make contact with the working world and enrich their own life through an altruistic and selfless experience.
The study titled, ‘The Situation of Youth Volunteerism and Employment: Skills and Employability’, conducted by the Don Bosco Confederation of Youth Centres, stresses the values of volunteers who work in youth organizations in their free time. The report analyses how participating in these tasks helps people to find a job and stresses that, although youth unemployment rose in the last quarter of 2014 to 52.39%, according to the Survey of Working Population, the unemployment rate among volunteers was 23%. The secret lies in the skills acquired during volunteer work, which coincide with those required by employers: teamwork, optimism and enthusiasm, interpersonal communication and ability to analyse and solve problems.
In a service-based economy like the Spanish economy, candidates who display communication skills, teamwork, self-management and leadership skills are usually highly valued. These are skills that are not promoted in formal education but acquired through professional experience or volunteer work. In addition, recruiting companies such as Hays, emphasize that spending time as a volunteer displays a level of concern, the ability to cope as well as tolerance and broadmindedness; skills that will become a differentiating factor when competing with other people. Hence the importance of including periods spent cooperating with sporting associations and involvement in group activities in the CV.
After some time in Nicaragua working in a nursing home four years ago, Ana Zamorano began to travel around the world to help change ita little. Since then, she has worked on solidarity projects in El Salvador, Guatemala, Indonesia, India, Gambia and Uganda. In the latter two countries, Ana also launched her own projects, raising funds to buy agricultural supplies, medicines, school supplies, provisions for an orphanage and to acquire two cows for one of the villages where she stayed.
For this young woman, who has just finished her studies in Publicity and Communication by the UPV, volunteerism has not only provided the opportunity to learn about other cultures and different ways of doing things, it has also been an opportunity to undertake other projects, such as the one she is preparing for next year: travel through Latin America from Chiapas to Patagonia with a video camera. Based in England at the moment where she is working as an intern on on-line marketing for the company, Zumos Don Simón, Ana considers that her experience as a volunteer has been extremely positive and enriching not only for her professional future (she hopes to work for an organization with a social outlook), but also as a person.
“In my family, nobody had considered doing volunteer work and I wanted to have that experience. When I was 19, I decided it was time and I went to India” recalls María Ibargurengoitia, a second year student of Teaching, who continued to contribute time as a volunteer after her stay in this Asian country, working as a monitor for the Patronato de Aldai in Algorta every Saturday in summer and at Christmas.
Mary and her friend, Aiara Martiarena, also a student of the same course, spent time in New Delhi teaching in a school (an experience they found very intense) and encountering a constantly challenging reality. They had the chance to apply what they had studied at university, trying to teach by using different methods than those used locally, which includes “copying lines on the blackboard and physical punishment, things that you don’t see at any school here, but without judging, only suggesting other more fun and didactic alternatives”, says Aiara. For these young women, their time in India has been so positive that they want to repeat the experience next year by going to Peru to lend a hand at another school.
Like them, 41% of young people in the Basque Country have been volunteers or are currently taking part in a volunteer project, according to a recent study published by the Basque Youth Observatory. A report that highlights that girls perform more volunteer work than boys and that sex determines the type of projects selected. Women are more involved in educational tasks while men prefer sporting activities.