The Value of Volunteering
by Florian Bender, German Volunteer
Work without payment is in Germany called »Ehrenamt«. This phrase contains the word »Ehre«, which means honour. And that is where the value of volunteering lies.
Volunteering means committing oneself to a task without expecting any form of reward for it. And still it is the easiest way to make people around you happy, which is a reward in itself. But volunteering is not only an easy way to do good things, it is also the only way organisations like Letsema Centre can work. Doing work for charity is not a well-paid job – at least not in a material way. This work is dependent on committed people for whom a smile or a “thank you” is the best reward they can get for the time and power they invest.
But what defines the value of volunteering? It is not only the fact that it is enabling charity in a true sense of the word. It also forms a contrast to a general expectation of behaviour you can find too often in nowadays' society. It means actively denying to only concentrate on the most effective way to wealth and influence. It even means not to live in a selfish, egocentric manner.
In the sense of »Letsema«, which is an old Tswana tradition, volunteering means to come together and help each other. In former times whole communities came together to help each other on their farms and to later on enjoy the joys of their work results together. Volunteering is not only investing into others – it will also make others invest into you; you will be able to enjoy your products or results of work together.
Volunteering is committing yourself to help others. It means not expecting rewards for your work, but taking people's reactions to your work as reward. Also keep in mind: nobody can force anyone to be volunteer – so you also choose to do the work you are doing. And as explained in the very beginning, this is most honourable.