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Tamar Bulia: Volunteering

Volunteering, or volunteer service, is any type of work that is done free of charge. It implies that a person is willing and ready to volunteer his/her time to help others and improve the well-being of his or her community.  Unfortunately, people are often sceptical about the merits of volunteer work. They cannot understand why anybody should be motivated to work for others without pay. Their scepticism is rooted in the past.

In Soviet times volunteering was part of the Communist ideology and had actually nothing to do with a true volunteer activity - quite the contrary, it was mandatory. That is why many people watch volunteering and volunteers with a sceptical eye. Volunteer service is not popular in Georgia nowadays. To change such negative public perception, it is necessary to reconsider and reassess the concept of volunteering in light of the present-day paradigms. Volunteer work should not be interpreted as a some sort of charitable activity. Volunteering for non-profit, charitable or other organisations is beneficial for both a volunteer and the organisation. It is based on simple and robust principles. Volunteer service is a valuable resource to organizations that cannot afford to pay people to work. On the other hand, volunteer service can help people get jobs - when organizations get funding for staff, they may turn first to their volunteers for paying positions. Besides, volunteer service provides volunteers with an opportunity to get skills and experience that may be helpful in their future careers. In brief, volunteering benefits both the volunteers and the society.

Apart from negative public attitude towards volunteering, there is another serious problem - in Georgia the volunteer service is not regulated by law. Volunteering is an essential part of a modern society. Many countries have adopted special laws on volunteer service and developed respective policies and regulations. The absence of the legal framework for volunteer service in Georgia creates serious obstacles for the Georgian non-governmental organisations. Just NGOs are best suited for volunteering. They act as intermediaries between those opting for volunteer work and potential beneficiaries of volunteer service, i.e. people in need of help and assistance. But to employ volunteers, the NGOs have to settle some legal problems: job contracts, remuneration for meals or other expenses, etc. In Georgia such issues are regulated by the Labour Code, but it has no provisions on volunteer service. To solve the problem and eliminate the current negative public attitude towards volunteering, it is vitally important for Georgia to adopt a special law on volunteer service and develop a policy to support and manage volunteer work and maximise its beneficial effects on the society.

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