On the mind of Ali M. Halawi:
Volunteerism has been defined and redefined, with among the most common definitions including: “Activities that are non-obligatory (there is no contractual, familial or friendship obligation between the helper and the helped, nor coercion); [that are] undertaken for the benefit of others, [for] society as a whole, or [for] a specific organization; [these activities are] unpaid”. “Volunteerism involves much more than working without pay; it involves people making choices to do things to help society in ways that go beyond their basic obligations”.
Volunteering may sound as a simple act of giving back and receiving praise, but in fact, it’s more complicated than that. Volunteering has always been a part of the Lebanese community dating years back to the days of foreign intervention during the wars to the crisis faced with the refugees in Lebanon. The crisis we face on a daily basis should never go unnoticed and I personally believe we should do whatever is in our power to make sure that we keep this country in one piece or at least what’s left of it.
Lebanon had opened its borders to at least 1.5 million Syrian refugees that had escaped from their hardships and battles faced in Syria during the war in Syria which saw almost ¾ of its country war torn, with homes damaged, land lost, and lives lost. For those lucky enough to have survived, they had lost everything and the only means of survival was based on how far away from Syria they could get and in turn, fleeing towards the Lebanese border seemed like the best possible option. Due to these unique efforts made by the local volunteers as they left a caring image across the world, this had in fact attracted international NGO’s to come forth and give us much aid as they wish to offer in order to assist the Lebanese path of keeping these refugees safe and fully taken care of during all this. Excess commitment being shown from both sides as this plan may as well continue to go on as long as there is pressure being put on their unfortunate internal wounds which seems to have left most of these civilians scarred and wondering when they will ever get home or if there is a home to get back to. The question needed to reassure them would be, is the current funding going to be enough for the long run? Would Lebanon and the international countries be assisting them be able to supply them with enough money and donations for the time being? Seeing as Lebanon is facing a huge financial and economical downfall, what steps are taken next could be vital to the barriers they will be facing in the future?
A serious problem being faced is inconsistency, be it, funding or focus in the work place. The allocation of funding has been an issue due to the fact that money intake is slowly decreasing seeing as not everyone is able to donate to charities as much as they used to, a year ago here in Lebanon, with the economic crisis hitting the nation hard, we can only assume that the US dollar rate, increasing by the day, won’t be helping any NGO anytime soon. Unfortunately, to add more problems to our plate, nobody is donating with the reason that most have been left jobless and don’t know where to go from there. To their surprise certain NGOs are willing and able to pay their employees in US dollars as opposed to being paid by Lebanese lira, which is sort of causing an issue and raising many eyebrows as people begin to wonder if their hard earned money being donated is going to a greater cause or if it’s being given out to the wrong people right behind their backs.
One of the issues faced by the volunteers is based on the idea that they are actually undervalued in comparison to higher members in their organizations. With that said, most of them actually work for free and work based on their good nature and respect rather than for a paycheck. They aren’t given the opportunity to plan or make important decisions but rather they are just told what to do and when to do it from someone of greater authority. The fact that many if not most of these volunteers’ voice is not heard and the tasks they are given are rather small and not worth dedication, this will push away the volunteer and stop them from being interested in what they are doing which will cause someone determined to break out by the end and feel like there was no point to all the effort the put in. Lack of leadership skills could heavily affect these volunteers as without the right person’s mindset and goals, the whole team could fail in delivering what they went out to achieve and henceforth with a less active leader/boss. The only possibility the NGO has to move forward, will inevitably be stopped in its tracks on the spot. No matter how motivated you are or you start acting out to be, without the right guidance and persuasion this will cause the volunteers to feel less motivated to look for a solution and rather get stuck on the tasks at hand. In short, some may even question if what they are doing truly is making a difference or are they simply just another brick in the wall at the end of the day.
The most recent issue which has stopped the NGO’s from progressing is the Corona virus which has taken its toll on everyone, from the people in need to the volunteers themselves. Not only has it increased the numbers of patients in the last few months but it has also brought by multiple deaths to add to this sad but realistic tale. The volunteers are at a serious risk of getting sick while doing their best to maintain their distance even though most of their work requires closure with the needy and the helpless refugees and locals.
Just like nurses and doctors in hospitals who are forced to stay away from their families to prevent a potential risk of someone catching something, the same occurs with the volunteers who are on the frontline every single day risking their all to make sure everyone maintains the level of safety and they remain healthy at all times whenever the opportunity arises. It’s quite a hassle and a very chaotic point of view but to all the brave volunteers all around the world who choose not only to save as much lives as possible but also ensure a future for these helpless people, they deserve our utmost respect and gratitude, whilst most of us are barely capable enough of going to the supermarket and would rather order things over the phone as a safer concept, these men and women would walk through hell and back to make everything possible and tasks achievable.
Obviously, with hardship comes relief. There are ways to and techniques to keep the volunteers minds in motion and keep them satisfied. The most efficient way to keep someone happy and in check is by showing appreciation, give them the idea that you are in fact grateful for all that they are trying to achieve. Could be by simply thanking them for their hard work and determination, hosting events that honor the volunteers and their efforts, the use of emails or newsletter that highlight an individual or group in that sector of the organization for their work and what they have been able to complete. Motivation is a priority in any organization and without it they will feel less eager on succeeding. With the right words and push, not only do you guarantee success in the work place, you also guarantee the volunteers satisfaction and strive and last but not least you push them to become more active and more aware of everything that they are going through.
In conclusion, I personally believe that with a bit of innovation and a change of mindset, the concept of volunteering could be made a bit more interesting and keep volunteers ready and active with just the right attitude. I did community service back in school as a Lebanese kid growing up in Africa since my youth and as much as I disliked missing football or the opportunity to go home and watch something on my television, it struck me that there is so much more that I could do with my life for the better and the best is yet to come if you get your head into what you’re doing, be it teaching orphans how to read, feeding the elderly or watching over kids and kicking a ball around, one simple act of kindness can go a long way.