Working for free? Volunteers are among us

December 5th is International Volunteer Day. People who are willing to work without being paid certainly deserve this recognition. Want to join them? Find out how!

A dictionary defines volunteering as voluntary and unpaid social work for others, but also as an unpaid internship. Therefore, anyone can feel like a volunteer, if they simply get involved in support work and do not receive any remuneration for their efforts.

Frequently, volunteering in an organised manner brings more benefits, which are often good for both parties. People applying for a job have a chance to participate in large, exciting and important projects and, at the same time, learn and travel. On the other hand, the organisers of, eg huge sports events, who benefit from their generosity, can significantly reduce the costs of the whole project.

Europe full of opportunities

Statistics show that volunteering is a realm of young people who are looking for their place on the labour market, and seniors ending several dozen years of professional life. Eurostat data suggests that in the UK the highest percentage of volunteers exists among the 65-74 year-olds, followed by 16-24 year-olds. A lower percentage of volunteers is reported for people aged 25-64, and the rate of those aged over 75 is at the lowest, which is most likely related to health.

As in the case of looking for a paid job, before going on voluntary service, one should be careful about middlemen and trust well-known organisations and institutions. On the official European Union website, volunteers can search for opportunities, eg the country of their choice, the timeframe, and profile of the work they would like to get involved in. Verified offers from Eastern, South-Eastern and Mediterranean countries can be found at salto-youth.net and the database of accredited organisations at europa.eu/youth/volunteering/evs-organisation.

The European Voluntary Service (EVS) offers many opportunities for people willing to work for free, both concerning the time needed for each programme and its location in different parts of the world. However, there is an age limit. Offers are addressed to people aged 18-30.

Work and travel

Voluntary service is very popular not only because it involves exploring the world and meeting new people, but it has the additional advantage of organisers covering the costs of accommodation and food for volunteers. They also often provide training and insurance. They do not mediate in, for example, obtaining visas. Participants should get an additional insurance policy on their own, and if they try to travel to an EU country, it is worth packing their European Health Insurance Card.

Volunteers also have to pay for their spendings eg shopping, entertainment, etc. In the case of additional expenses, a young person, being away from home, may seek help from parents or friends and ask for a transfer to their bank account. Even if they are hundreds of kilometres apart, they can still use Conotoxia.com’s fast and multi-currency money transfer service. It is available at https://conotoxia.com/money-transfer

Experienced volunteers recommend that freshmen should not throw themselves into the deep end. In other words, it is better to start volunteering close to home. Only after getting acquainted with the realities of charity work should theyconsider a more extended stay, eg one year in another country.

What you need to know

Even though you do not receive any payment for your work as a volunteer, you must not give up participation in the voluntary service without an important and clear reason. At the beginning of the project the participant signs a contract with the organiser.

Participation in a volunteering project does not count towards pensions. However, unemployed people and those who receive benefits do not lose their right to them when they engage in formal volunteering.