Sustainable volunteer work
While the world seems so tough and in the middle of chaos, once in a while we come across events which remind us that the earth is still a place where love and affection remain.
This is evident in the increase in the number of voluntary services. Numerous organizations have been established to help and take care of people who have been unavoidably marginalized from society. Now, people try to work for the welfare of underprivileged families and the rehabilitation of the disabled.
With these services in action, a question arises: Do these efforts really make a difference to those in need? Are they effective enough?
Those who receive the services gain hope as volunteers work and strive to improve their lives. They can also gain things essential for their survival, such as shelter and food. The poor and the disabled manage to maintain their life because of all these efforts. But are these good enough?
On July 2007, I had the opportunity to participate in a voluntary work sponsored by YWCA in Bangladesh with several friends of mine. There, we worked at a Korean charity organization where meals were provided for residents of a nearby town. Our team worked there for several days and had a great time with people there.
But somehow the work by the volunteers didn't seem to be effective. The organization had been established several years ago but people's lives still remained difficult, and they were still as badly off as they could be. People were still living in huts, not proper houses, and filth was all over the ground.
Why was this? If volunteer workers are trying so hard to improve these people’s lives, why were they still in hunger? The problem seemed to lie in the unsustainability of the work. Simply providing people with the necessities can be a somewhat one-dimensional solution to their problems. Actually, they need more services which can ensure their lives progress even with the aid they receive from others.
In that sense, social enterprises can be a solution. These are the organizations which “sell bread to hire,” not “hire to sell bread.”
They are for-profit businesses but they also invest their money in various areas from providing social services to creating employment and job training for low-income groups. A very effective way to help them in the long run is to give the destitute and the handicapped a real opportunity to better their quality of life on their own.
According to a study done in 2010, there are 252 social corporations operating in Korea, and this is a very positive sign in our society. But all of these corporations are concentrated in the capital area. Out of 252 organizations, 69 are situated in Seoul, followed by 50 in Gyeonggi Province. Dispersing these organizations will be even more efficient in aiding people in need.
Volunteer work like constructing shelters for the homeless should continue. There are still many who are desperate for survival and it is essential for us to help them. On top of that, it is urgent to provide those in need with aid that will create a shelter for them in the future. This will enable people to stand on their own two feet one day.
Kim Sung-bin is a second year student at Busan International High School.