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Being a volunteer: To be or not to be

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Added 23rd July 2018 01:14 PM

The volunteers performed varied roles ranging from driving, security detail, airport welcoming and team liaison.

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The volunteers performed varied roles ranging from driving, security detail, airport welcoming and team liaison.

By Dr. Donald Rukare

Several of us at one point or another in our lives have been a volunteer or will volunteer. This piece seeks to unravel the types of volunteers and what motivates one to become a volunteer.

During the recently concluded 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia, an army of about 15,000 volunteers supported the sporting spectacle spending 1 million volunteer hours over 11 days.

The volunteers performed varied roles ranging from driving, security detail, airport welcoming and team liaison.

I was fascinated and intrigued by the high level of commitment of these volunteers which was a mix between the young and the old. This got me thinking about the question: whether to be or not to be a volunteer?

Before taking a deep dive into what motivates one to volunteer, it is vital to first look at the various types of volunteers. We have paid volunteers and these are usually students who volunteer and are paid a nominal amount of money for their time. We also have non-paid volunteers who do not get paid for their services or time but may receive meals, t-shirts or transport provided in-kind. This type is common in the sports arena, non-profit organizations like Rotary and many more.

In determining what type of volunteer one is, we have to decipher what motivates one to do so. Circling back to the Gold Coast volunteers, I established from some of them several reasons that motivated them to be volunteers which I believe resonant with reasons one volunteers.  Most of them volunteered to work long hours without pay as one way of giving back to their country Australia. For these volunteers a strong sense of nationalism was the main motivator for them.

Closely related to this reason is a view that one wants to give back to society. Many of you volunteers out there may find lots of parallels with this reason. I verily believe that the above stated motivators are valid. However I also believe that for most of the non-paid volunteers, they are rather comfortable in life, some with a good pension or are not vulnerable thus able or in position to volunteer for something they believe or like. It may be hard though not impossible to volunteer when one is not financially secure.

Another citied reason was the appeal of meeting people from all over the world. Over 5000 athletes, officials and fans descended on the Gold Coast for the 2 weeks of the games from 71 countries. The volunteers who on a daily basis met folks from various countries, backgrounds, languages and outlooks on life. This enriching engagement certainly broadened the volunteer’s world view as well as their knowledge. The networking opportunities arising from this were also immense. For several volunteers in other fields this is one major attraction without a doubt.

For the young volunteers, the experience was one that they could chalk down on their resumes in the hope that it would hold them in good stead when seeking employment opportunities down the line and this it may surely do.  A number of prospective employers consider favorably volunteer experience.

Passion and love of sport was another reason that some volunteered. For this category of volunteers it is about the deep seated love they have for sport. It is this group of volunteers that often times go over and beyond often paying for some activities from their own funds. In contrast there are those volunteers that are in it for the pay. For this group it is vital that the volunteering gig has some monetary benefit attached to it.

From the aforementioned discussion, it is evident that there are various types of volunteers and motivators for one to volunteer. It is strongly recommended that we all strive to volunteer for causes we believe it or support.  To be a volunteer is the answer to the question to be or not to be a volunteer.

Dr. Rukare is President of Uganda Swimming and Secretary General of the Uganda Olympic Committee

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