For the greater good
2019-04-01 | By Tory Debassio
Working is not always what it’s cracked up to be. There are deadlines to meet, bosses to please, and petty office drama. This doesn’t necessarily go away when you decide to volunteer, but doing something because you want to, not because it is paid, feels to many as the purest form of work.
People volunteer because they want to make a difference in their communities, in their own lives, and in the lives of those around them. The 2017 Dutch Social Cohesion and Well-being study from Statistics Netherlands (CBS) confirms this, finding that people volunteer primarily because they like what they’re doing and want to do something for someone else; a small minority of volunteers do so to increase the chance of a job offer. Representatives of several platforms helping facilitate volunteering in the Netherlands–NL Cares (nlcares.nl), Deedmob (deedmob.com) and Oranje Fonds (oranjefonds.nl), the organisation planning the NLdoet nationwide volunteer day on 15 and 16 March 2019– all have one thing in common: they are passionate about helping others. Nerina Vilchez, Advisor of Publicity and Social Media at Oranje Fonds, says it best when she points out that the only skill you need to be a volunteer “is to be human, to have empathy and the wish that this country can be a place where everyone can live and not be left out.” Andre Pijeaux Jr., Head of Growth at Deedmob, mirrors the same sentiment, liking their platform (that matches users to volunteer opportunities) to a playbook helping create a grassroots movement to affect change. To a certain degree, society depends on the government to provide a certain quality of life, but volunteers can also create and improve the community they live in. Vilchez loves her work because she enjoys helping Dutch society become more social. As the head of social media, she only hears positive stories at Oranje Fonds. While her work can only exist when there is a problem to solve–poverty, inequality, environmental injustice–she works every day with people who want to address and solve those issues in their communities. She is confronted regularly by the goodness of human beings, and in collecting volunteer stories, is constantly reminded not to see the bad, but to see the solutions.
The difference between working and volunteering
Vilchez hopes that everyone would have a job that they’d do even if they didn’t need the money, but sometimes jobs just pay the bills. Volunteering can provide fulfillment, a sense of happiness and well-being, and the Dutch lifestyle seems to support it. Pijeaux, an American expat who recently moved to the Netherlands to work at Deedmob, says volunteering is part of Dutch culture. (In fact, seven million people volunteer at least once a year!). Despite his job being more taxing, he feels he has more time in the Netherlands. Now he can contribute to his community in a different way.
ACCESS is a volunteer organisation too. You are welcome to attend one of our volunteer information mornings. Check online for details, access-nl.org/volunteering-for-access/infomorning-dates. Or contact the ACCESS Helpdesk for information about other language-no-problem volunteering opportunities.
What are the statistics? How does the Netherlands compare?
This fine country is actually rated number one out of 163 countries assessed in The Good Country Survey, and, in fact, it is not retired people who volunteer the most, but those between 35 and 45 years old. Many organisations want to make volunteering easier for the younger generations, especially millennials. As Renske Kleijn points out, the platform she works for, NL Cares, tries to provide flexible activities for volunteers at times that suit them, as opposed to longer-term commitments. Deedmob’s mission is also to allow people to volunteer when, where and how they like. The numbers prove this approach is working. A CBS survey shows that 51% of all 15- to 24-year-olds volunteer at least once a year, female and male alike. Overall, there are relatively more young people than adults who volunteer, at 49%, and on average, a person spends four and a half hours a week volunteering. As the numbers and research show, the Netherlands is a country of volunteers for the greater good! Even the king and queen volunteer!
About the author
Tory quit her full-time job last year and has been happily volunteering ever since. She likes helping internationals, making friends, yoga, drawing and cats. Her favorite Dutch artwork is Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Originally from Boston, Tory has lived in the Netherlands for four years.