Volunteerism: Another Checkbox More Than an Act of Compassion?

Jasmine K.

When the word volunteerism is mentioned, many correlate it with selfless citizens who contribute to their communities without gaining benefits, however, is volunteering today really an act of pure compassion and selflessness?

Today, service experience is a vital characteristic that is searched for in resumes; it is given plenty of attention and credit. In many cases, volunteerism has exceeded grades and has made exceptions for those who may not excel in education, but can dedicate to purposeful causes in their community.

“Community service is often a requirement for high school graduation, not to mention critical to the college application process.” Projects-Abroad states in an article.

As Projects-Abroad emphasizes, using the method of credits, universities encourage the act of volunteerism in their students. Instead of juveniles wholeheartedly devoting themselves to good causes, however, it has become a scramble for volunteer hours. Volunteerism has permeated into high school programs as well, as the International Baccalaureate requires experience in community service to pass the course. Typically, high schools require 100 hours of experience and participating in IB extends the amount, adding 50 more hours to the grand total of essential volunteer hours.

What is the objective of informing my audience of this, and how does this play into volunteerism becoming less of an act of selflessness? By making volunteerism a requirement, it creates a checkbox for students as it becomes less of a passion or commitment but more of a goal or burden on their to-do list for high school. By gaining more volunteer hours, the students think automatically that they will gain something from it, making it a job more than it is volunteering. As a student, I have noticed this constantly in peers around me and in myself as well.

Understanding that there are people who do devote themselves to volunteerism, however, is important. Volunteering isn’t a corrupt and credit-gaining device as I might have described it to be, in fact, the vast majority of volunteers –both youth and adults– dedicate themselves to their work and wholeheartedly toil without gain. Some juveniles, however, are taking advantage of a system meant to encourage the spirit of giving and utilizing it as a credit-feeder.

When I work with my fellow peers on volunteering projects, I notice many of them asking to join more clubs and organizations. When I inquire about their objectives of joining these programs, many reply with a blunt ‘I want to apply for an award’ or indirectly imply that they want to provide a better future for themselves. I am hypocrital for accusing youth as if these are felonies, however, I have to confess to my own faults as well as I set off to attain the same things when I decided to join the volunteer programs I am currently investing my time in. The purpose of informing you of this, however, is not to accuse others of making choices that benefit themselves, but to fix a problem many may not have seen.

Although benefitting yourself and preparing for your future is not a negative reason to invest your time in an activity, there are places and times for everything. For example, writing a resume to apply for a job is a good way to gain credible experience instead of utilizing volunteering organizations. In fact, universities give credit to a person’s experience in being able to sell oneself as a potential employee  more than how many volunteering hours one has collected.

Colleges and high schools encourage volunteerism, but to dedicate yourself to volunteering instead of treating it like a requirement should be what youth strive towards. Volunteering is for people who feel a passion in an area; people who desire to lend a helping hand no matter the case because of their fervour for sharing that passion without gain. That is the form in which volunteerism should be maintained for now and for future generations.

Jasmine Illustration

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