« Change things : become a volunteer ! »

The European Committee celebrated in 2001 The Year of European Volunteering

« If our hopes of building a better and safer world are to become more than wishful thinking, we will need the engagement of volunteers more than ever » , declared Kofi Annan. It is in compliance with this saying that a billion of Europeans devote their spare time and skills to help people in need and their community. These people are : a retired art teacher giving lectures about European masterpieces to strangers visiting a museum ; a secondary school pupil doing readings to children sent to hospital ; or a former national soccer player training the players of a local club. There are tones of possible means to change things. The European Committee just launched the 2011 European Volunteering Year, in order to highlight its efforts and to encourage more people to get involved into volunteering. Mrs Viviane Reding, vice-president and member of the Committee dealing with justice, fundamental and civic rights ; Mr Jean-Marc Delizée, Belgian Secretary of State dealing with social cases ; and Mrs Marian Harkin, member of the European Parliament ; all together presented the slogan of the year : « Change things : become a volunteer ! ».

Change things : become a volunteer
Change things : become a volunteer

«  I want to pay tribute to the millions of Europeans who take the time to make our world better », declared Mrs Viviane Reding,  vice-president and member of the Committee dealing with justice, fundamental and civic rights. « Every one of us has the ability to help people in need. Volunteering strengthens our fundamental European morals : solidarity and social cohesion. While we are launching the European Volunteering Year, I would like to give a moral support to the ones that are struggling to change things. It is time for us to share and give too, in other words, to help those who are helping ! » 

According to an Eurobaromètre survey of May 2010, three Europeans outo ten practise a voluntary activity.

As regards for volunteering, there are several definitions and varying customs. The common point of these different activities is always the fact that people join forces to help eachother or other individuals in need, which benefits not only to the society as a whole, but also to the volunteers themselves. Volunteering enables people to acquire some knowledge, to provide one's skills for helping others, and to enlarge one's social network, which can lead to new or better job perspectives and to foster social and personal development.
The committee helps the young population to be part of voluntary activities. In the European voluntary service framework, thousands of teenagers go abroad to teach, to sensibilize people to cultures, and to acquire strong personal and social abilities. For instance, the volunteers of « Verahus », a young workers' center in Copenhagen, daily help disabled. They offer them numerous activities such as painting, music, games, sports, and escort them to some trips.

To highlight the work done by the volunteers, to arouse vocations and take up challenges encountered, the 2011 Year of Volunteering follows four main objectives :

  • To reduce obstacles to volunteering inside the European Union,
  • To give means of action to associations of volunteers and to improve the quality of volunteering,
  • To aknowledge and reward volunteer activities,
  • To sensibilize people to the volunteering value and significance.
The Committee will encourage the sharing of good practices between the governments of the member-States and the voluntary associations, in order to reach these goals. The emphasis will be put on the training of volunteers, the authorization and the quality guarantee, and an efficient and effective match between the potential volunteering supply and the volunteering demand.
The Committe will support the new initiatives aimed at establishing networks at the European level, that would stimulate exchanges and cross-border collaborations between the voluntary associations and other players, especially firms.

Throughout the Year of Volunteering, thousands of activities and projects are pointed out and backed. Among some of them, at the European level :

The Tour : volunteers visit every member-States for a year. At each step, they present their activities and meet political decision-makers and the general public ;

Le Relais des Journalistes : twenty-seven voluntary journalists watch the activities of fifty-four associations of volunteers. They produce a series of articles and video  and audio clips, that are published  and broadcast via medias. By the end of the year, all of the tv coverages will be compiled in order to make a documentary dedicated to broadcasting about the European Year of Volunteering and le Tour.

Four thematic lectures are organized in 2011 in order to underligne the essential events of volunteering :

On January 8th at Budapest : Aknowledgement of volunteering

In May/June : Pay tribute to volunteers and their action

In October : Give some means of action to associations of volunteers

And in December : Final lecture about the future challenges.

The Committee currently work in a close cooperation with « l' Alliance » of the associations of volunteers, the European Parliament, the member-States, the Committee of Regions, the European Economic and Social Committee, the European Council and the volunteers of the United Nations.