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The Process of Volunteering

A Report on the Presentation made by Ms. Alka Kapadia, Executive Director, CPAA

This year has been declared "The International Year of the Volunteer." In this connection, the Tata Group had organised a seminar for the benefit of their employees. Ms. Alka Kapadia, Executive Director, CPAA was one of the speakers invited to address the group of 200 people who had come forward to participate in volunteering activities. Reproduced below is her report.

Volunteering is not a new concept, it has been effective since times immemorial, be it in the form of social activities, religious functions, community welfare programs, PTAs and so on. There are always a large number of individuals with the qualifications, income and leisure wanting to pursue a cause that they believe in. Simply put, any individual who chooses to freely give his time, talent and experience to assist and support others in need, is a volunteer.

Before coming for this session you were asked to fill in the Volunteer Registration form. This may have been the first time that you thought about volunteering, or gave it serious thought. You were then prodded further by the form and asked to decide on one particular cause. You would probably have ticked the one that was closest to you emotionally. The form then encouraged you to think about the ways in which you would contribute. Many of you may have chosen the most hassle free jobs. If we analyse ourselves honestly, in 80% of us at this stage, the desire to volunteer is casual; the selection of the cause, which we will patronize, is emotional or maybe even fashionable. And the path of volunteering is absolutely unclear and not thought out. As a result, volunteers quickly become disillusioned and programs are destined for failure before taking off. It is of paramount importance that each volunteer should believe in the cause that he patronises, in order to be successful in his volunteering. For any cause to succeed, we need committed and dedicated volunteers. Please experiment with different fields before deciding on the cause that is closest to your heart.

I would emphasise here, be serious about wanting to volunteer, select a cause and an organisation you believe in, review what you can give, not necessarily in your immediate sphere of expertise, but even your hobbies. Commit to only what you can do and what you feel good about. Finally, be true to yourself and to the commitment you have made. Volunteering should be viewed personally as philanthropy and not charity. It should be a process in which you both give and receive adequately, a process, which is as much for yourself as for the others you are trying to help, a process of learning, accommodating, understanding and giving within the framework of requirement, respecting the credo of the organisation that you are working with.

At CPAA, we have people coming in to volunteer every day, all of them wanting to work with the patients. One such person was a product manager from a leading pharmaceutical company having the educational qualifications of a counselor, but who did not take that up as her job.

She was keen, enthusiastic, and very dedicated. She would come regularly and sit with our counselors on Saturdays during their counseling sessions or even for hospital visits. She was good at her job and soon she started counseling patients visiting our centre. After a period of about 8 months, she started feeling that in many cases conventional chemotherapy was not the answer, but should be replaced by alternative medicine. As counselors, at no stage do we have the right to meddle with treatment patterns and we never give advice about the same. Many a times, patients end up confused to a large extent. The will to volunteer and passion to serve was immense, thoughts were noble and reactions normal, but in no way could CPAA have a representative giving out messages against conventional treatment. Volunteerism is a mixture of both self-interest and altruism, something which appeals to both social and personal self-interest.

Volunteering should be a symbiotic experience shared between the volunteer and the voluntary agency, which work together in harmony, interdependently, patronizing a common cause, requiring the presence of each other in deriving satisfaction from combined existence. Effective utilization of a volunteer largely depends on the organization with which they are working. Therefore it is essential to select the right organizational set up. The voluntary agency has a responsibility to identify the volunteer's passion and capabilities and involve them accordingly, giving due recognition and responsibility with authority, motivating leadership, challenging, time-bound projects and constantly reviewing and evaluating interest in the job assigned. Such meticulous synergism ensures lengthy association between the volunteer and the organization. A successful volunteer based program is like a happy marriage which makes a perfect picture but does not exhibit the continuous efforts and inputs that go into it.

Today NGOs are in the midst of change. The need of the day is for broader vision, absolute transparency and no compromise of standards in performance levels. With increasing financial constraints, it is becoming imperative for all NGOs to utilise volunteers to the widest extent possible, not only in actual field related activities but at every level be it Accounts, IT, Advertising, Marketing and Public Relations, all of which are required today for the efficient running of any NGO. A volunteer can still play a very major role in assisting the organization without participating in the field work of the organization.

Corporate volunteers like you could contribute immensely, not necessarily with time and money but through contacts, by creating awareness about the cause and utilising resources available to you. Corporate involvement with the voluntary sector could be very effective and beneficial to both parties, if worked out correctly.

Living with the spirit of service in your career with support from your corporation, you will not only serve but serve best, simultaneously experiencing immense personal growth, development and inner satisfaction which will give a high better than that of any other form of success. The returns to the volunteer are a sense of achievement, job satisfaction, personal growth and development, value added living, recognition and the knowledge of their true worth. It is a feeling that will make you soar.



"If you try to find time for something that matters, you never will. You must make the time."