Volunteering – Bridging the Gap between Humane and Professional

Zlatan (21) is a student of physiotherapy. During his studies, he wishes to obtain as much volunteering experience as possible, which would ensure him better experience and a better starting point for employment. Maja (24) thinks similarly, and she, seemingly, went one step ahead, and signed a contract with a private pharmacy, after volunteering for 60 days, to volunteer for the next seven months.

According to the recently adopted Law on Volunteering of FBiH, Zlatan’s case is apsolutely “clear”: he can request for a volunteering certificate from his organiser of volunteering (the institution that hired him as a volunteer). He works in his field, and in order to be recognised as a long-term volunteer, he needs to fulfil a quota of at least 240 hours in three months, which is around 20 hours per week. Volunteering for an organisation – the Gerontological Centre or a hospital, that can, by law, hire volunteers – will be acknowledged as work experience, regardless of whether it is performed with a high school diploma or on completion of his studies. 

As for Maja, it is more complicated. Aiming to obtain work experience, she signed a contract with a private pharmacy that does not have, nor it ever had, a legal basis to organise volunteering. The Law on Work of FBiH is in charge of the problem. Since she remembered in time that the Institute for Youth Development KULT has been working successfully for the past several years on the recently adopted Law on Volunteering of FBiH, she will not waste time and will try to find a organiser as a mediator with whom she can sign a valid contract to continue working at the pharmacy, which will help her in finding a full-time employment later on.

Let us resolve the basic dilemmas first: volunteering is a voluntary investment of personal time, effort, knowledge and skills to perform activities for a greater good and for no compensation.

The possible confusion that can be triggered by the notion of volunteering is probably explained best by a recent anecdote in the procedure of adopting the Law on Volunteering. When a youth was asked by a journalist «would you like to volunteer», the youth responded quickly:

«Yes, if they would pay me.»

Volunteers are not paid, not because their work is worthless, but because it is priceless.

For, the English King George IV, the father of modern India Mahatma Gandi, a Nobel-prize and Pulitzer-prize winner Pearl Buck, the genial comedian Bill Cosby, the former German Minister of Foreign Affairs Joschka Fischer, the philosopher and theoretician Albert Schweitzer, the legendary Prime Minister of England Winston Churchill, possibly the greatest boxer of all time Muhamed Ali, the great American President Bill Clinton – all of them were volunteers. And thousands of others, anonimous people who volunteerily worked, helping to sustain the educational, health or social system in their society.

Volunteering is a obligatory part of one’s biography in all developed societies. Almost every expert in his/her field has at one point volunteered by investing their time and skills, and a great number of them never completely gave up on investing their hours in charity work. 

The new Law protects the volunteers, provides them with a legal framework and offers the social community a potential social group to improve the quality of living for themselves, as well as for the society as a whole.

But, caution: Every volunteering may be a manipulation field. It is important to know that not just anyone can be an organiser of volunteering.

It has to be an authorised managing body, a managing organisation, an executive body, a legislative body, an ombudsman, a court body, a persecutor’s office, a legal defence office, an institution for executing legal punishment, jail and body for criminal offenses of the Federation, Canton, city and municipality, a public institution, legal person registered in accordance with the Law on Associations and Foundations. 

The volunteering organiser has to be accredited by the Federal Ministry of Justice to organise long-term volunteering.

Volunteering cannot last for over 40 hours per week, and there are very strict rules that ban every form of discrimination and exploitation of the voulnteer, and the rules about their training, protection and age. 

Sanela (26) spent 6 months volunteering during the last year and she wants her volunteering to be acknowledged as work experience. The new law will not regulate the rights of volunteers who volunteered before it was adopted, because that would enable misuse of the benefits it offers. From now on, the liable Ministry will run and maintain the database for all the reported volunteers since the day the law was brought. 

To find an organiser of volunteering, it is best to follow personal instincts, tendencies and abilities to find an organisation that would aid in developing one’s qualities and using them in further development and looking for employment.

That is why it is an absolute priority to revive the faith in work and civil engagement in order to build a healthy society and to restore youth – who are possibly the most threatened populace in BiH today – back on track.

Here is another fact: the Law on Volunteering in FBiH should not be confused with the Law on Work in FBiH. For, in the present Law on Work in FBiH the volunteers – trainees are persons who on a volunteer basis, or, with no financial reimbursment, can work off their traineeship required to take the professional exam. The term “volunteer” should be deleted from the new law on work, but the option to work off one’s traineeship with no reimbursement will remain open.

Liable and successful societies can only be formed through responsible and aware individuals.

Our society is slowly coming to the point in which volunteering will be appreciated.

And valued. 

According to a certain data, the percentage of unemployment amongst the youth is four times higher than in the European countries.

Therefore, volunteering, besides all the characteristics it has in contributing to learning and gaining knowledge in certain areas, could be one of the safest paths from finishing education or deciding to enroll in a business to full-time employment.

It is a bridge between humane work and professional employment.

Do not forget: long-term volunteering in one’s field of expertise, but only in accordance with the Law, is recognized as work experience. Volunteering may quicken the process of finding employment, because, unless you are protected by some sort of connection or a political option, the process can be difficult and long.

Which is exactly what the process of making BiH into a country in which the youth wish to stay and exercise their basic rights and have a life worthy of a human being will be.

So, let us volunteer!

Alber Einsteit, the mastermind in the field of Physics and the founder of the Theory of relativity, who volunteered himself, once said:

“Only a life lived for others is worth living.”

That is the spirit we need to follow.

And become volunteers.

Tekst: Ahmed Buri?


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