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Volunteerism in Slovakia

The „Gentle Revolution„ in 1989 brought to an end the communist era in Czechoslovakia and in January 1993, the independent sovereign state of the Slovak Republic was established. In the ten years since 1989, non-governmental not-for-profit organizations have begun to flourish again in Slovakia after years of suppression and appropriations under communism. Development of NGOs has had direct impact on number of people involved in volunteering.

In comparison with developed democratic countries there are far fewer people involved in voluntary activities in Slovakia (19% in SR : 49% in USA). Volunteer work does not currently receive the social acknowledgement and prestige that it receives abroad, and at the present time the demand for volunteers far out-weighs the supply. The Socialist regime in Slovakia did not stimulate individualism; on the contrary people were deprived of initiative, creativity and a sense of individual responsibility.They came to rely on the state and on large companies. The term voluntarism itself is often exchanged for, or suggests, membership in a non-profit organization. Volunteers work almost exclusively in non-governmental organizations; and often these organizations are completely dependent on the work of their volunteers.

  • 19% volunteers in Slovakia
  • 15% inhabitants carried out volunteer work at least once a month in 1996 (in 1995-10%)
  • 4% inhabitants carried out volunteer work at least once a year in 1996 (in 1995-3%)
  • 25.4% respondents regularly looked after an older or ill person in the family in 1996

The most popular areas of work for volunteers:

1. help to people in need
2. help to hospitals, health and social institutions
3. support of schools and education
4. developing municipalities and housing estates
5. protection of physical environment
6. human help to countries affected by a disaster and to refugees from other countries
7. support of sport and recreational activities
8. support of culture and art activities

The majority of volunteers work in social-care establishments (humanity and charity organizations , self-help groups), where the need for help is most urgent.

The Volunteer Center in Slovakia (part of NGO called Slovak Academic Information Agency-Service Center for the Third Sector) started in March 1998. Its mission is to promote the idea of volunteering in Slovakia and to increase the number of volunteers working in all areas of society life.

Results achieved in the area of volunteer development

Catalogue of Opportunities for Volunteers with 40 NGOs listed

  • Assisted 110 individuals in finding jobs as volunteers from January 1999, when the Center was opened to the public
  • 60 NGO representatives participated in workshops about Volunteer Management
  • 50 outcomes in media - articles in newspaper or magazines, radio and TV presentations
  • Celebration of December 5 - International Day of Volunteers - press conference organized
  • Organized and researched involvement of Members of Slovak Parliament in voluntary activities
  • Promotional and recruitment event for 20 NGOs - „Volunteer week" in June 1999 organized in Bratislava
  • Best Volunteers Award Ceremony is prepared for December 5. Best volunteers will be awarded by President of Slovak republic

What challenges do we have to face

  • Volunteerism is not as highly evaluated and appreciated as it is in the Western countries
  • The main reason given for not volunteering are: the bad economic situation which forces people to do paid work only, lack of leisure time and lack of motivation
  • The recruitment of volunteers is based primarily on personal contacts - so NGOs are not used to work with individuals they do not know /e.g. who are sent from Volunteer Center/
  • Volunteers are working almost exclusively in NGOs - so there is a hesitance from the side of state social institutions like hospitals, senior houses etc. to accept volunteers
  • One of the biggest challenge is the fact that a relatively high percentage of people is ready to do some kind of voluntary work "if they are asked" - what gives a challenge to the Volunteer Center to promote the idea of volunteering and to distribute information about volunteer activities among public

Prepared by: Nora Benakova
Volunteering Center
Ruzova dolina 6
821 08 Bratislava
tel: 00421 7 554 10 396
fax: 00421 7 554 10 382
email: norika@saia.sk

UN Volunteers This website is coordinated by the UN Volunteers programme.