19 October 2006
The Polish-American Freedom Foundation launched a volunteer programme for students who would like to help underprivileged schoolchildren in rural areas improve their learning skills. Programmes like these have been attracting a growing number of young Poles every year.
The popularity of volunteer work amongst young people is on the rise in Poland. The number of volunteers at Caritas Polska, Poland's largest charity, has doubled over the past five years. Currently, out of the total 60,000 volunteers working for Caritas, 13,000 are high school and college students, which is twice as many as five years ago.
Father Zbigniew Sobolewski, Secretary General of Caritas Polska is happy to see the sudden boom in volunteer interest: "In this world, where life is increasingly difficult, it's a great sign of hope for us, that so many young people think not only of themselves, but of others as well, and offer their private time, energy and, most importantly, love, to other people, by getting involved in volunteer work."
According to a report published by the Polish Center for Volunteer Work, the reasons for engaging in voluntary work are religious and moral convictions, self satisfaction and expectations of reciprocity. Fr. Sobolewski of Caritas Polska adds another aspect to the list – a fashion for helping others.
"I think there are many reasons for this sudden volunteer boom. One of them is young people's readiness to help others. It's something of a fashion to be a volunteer. Young people want to get involved in charity and social work, and to think not only of themselves."
Motivation for becoming a volunteer varies but there are some common benefits of volunteer work that may attract young people to undertake unpaid jobs. Anna Kuczyńska of the Polish Sociological Society names just a few:
"These people are more independent, more interested in public life, they start to build social networks. It is a very important experience. You spend your time in a creative way, you learn what responsibility is, you have no problem with cooperation, you have no problem with working in a group. And it gives a lot of satisfaction."
Officially recognized voluntary work is quite a new phenomenon in post-war Poland. It was initiated on a large scale only after the fall of Communism, with the formation of non-governmental organizations. Previously, networks of volunteer activity centers operated informally, basing to a large extent on Catholic parishes around the country.
It is estimated that currently about 2 million Poles volunteer on a regular basis.