By Carol Mendes | Translation by Ann Fain
In times where the majority of individuals appear to think only about them and in the money that they earn, there still exist individuals who defy that mentality. They dedicate part of their lives to carry out unpaid activities with the objective of providing social and communal services. These people are volunteers. They are like social workers that carry out works to aid society, driven by solidarity and responsibility for others. Voluntary work can be initiated individually, or in a group, in areas that lack community services.
In Brazil, voluntary service is found on a larger scale in health care and education, and there are countless areas with deficiencies that are brightened up by the work of these volunteers. In the state of Pernambuco, for example, some hospitals have developed several organizations, such as the Children’s Maternal Institute (IMIP). The volunteers of the Foundation Alice Figueira, who work for IMIP, carry out simple activities to help facilitate the work of the doctors in the hospital. They organize files, they make and adjust appointments, they tell stories to the children admitted to the hospital to help relieve their pain, etc.
When it comes to education, several forms of help exist, such as the incentive to practice sports, school reinforcement, incentives to read, among others. Just as paid work performed inside a company, voluntary work requires responsibilities and commitments. Every volunteer is responsible for knowing the institution or community where they “work”, they are responsible for keeping their commitments, they have to tell the institution if they need to temporarily or permanently leave, and they must be committed to help they can provide.
But volunteers are more than just social workers, they are individuals who also have the right to be respected, have the opportunity to develop their capacity, receive support in whichever job they perform, be informed about the duties they will perform, and have their work recognized and encouraged. When we speak of community activists, we cannot forget a national icon: Hebert de Souza. Known as Betinho, he led the Action of Citizens against the Miserable Life in the 1990’s. He was the embodiment of the word “volunteer” in Brazil. He worked with passion toward social movements and his participation was more than just a supportive impulse, it was a commitment. One of his mottoes was “I do not know how much I am going to accomplish, but I am going to do my part”. To him, this quote explained why he did what he did, even though he didn’t always achieve a successful outcome.
Just like Betinho, volunteers are attentive, perceptive and always looking around for an individual or an organization needing help. The volunteer concern with the well being of a person or the concept and cause an organization is involved or defends rather than any financial compensation. The payment for their work can be in a simple smile on the face of the helped person, maybe in the success campaign of an organization project they helped… or just in the gratifying feeling of inner peace.
*Soul Brasil magazine is produced in part thanks to several volunteers who help or have already helped us with our purpose of informing and educating. To all of them our thank you and gratitude!