10 January 2018

Ethiopia: Flourishing Culture of Voluntarism

Since the past few years, voluntarism in Ethiopia has been showing some improvements day after day. However, as it is not supported by youth policy, voluntarism in Ethiopia has not reached at the level of desired.

As recent publication of the Ministry of Youth and Sport indicated, the number of youth engaged by the year 2009 in voluntarism did not exceed three million. Nevertheless, the number has now shown dramatic increase to 17.5 million.

Ministry's Youth Involvement and Participation Director Matias Assefa said that as per voluntarism standard, youths have been providing free services in eight major areas including health, education, social security development services. Last year, for instance, 17.5 million youth volunteers participated in different activities. Of which, some 12.5 youth provided summer time services the remaining five million had taken part in winter season, he explained.

According to him, the incumbent is devoted to make voluntarism culture.

As some documents indicated, since 2009 the youth has been providing voluntarism services estimated to two billion birr. However, there is a challenge in intertwining services that are provided by youth in education, health and agriculture because they are given here and there. To end this, hence, currently, the government is preparing Youth Voluntarism Policy.

The Ministry has given directions and motivate all institutions to link their activities with voluntarism and volunteers, he added.

Axum University, Educational Psychology Department Head Mehari Getachew on his part said that voluntarism is a free service that one provides for the benefit of others to get psychological, spiritual or life satisfactions. Such sort of service though has not developed well, these days it is widely practiced in Ethiopia.

Had it been a common practice, changing the livelihood of destitute, vulnerable and needy people, pulling out of poverty and enable them lead independent life would have been a difficult task.

Gondar University Sociology Instructor Muluken Fekadu said that these days, voluntarism in Ethiopia is carried out in organized way. Many charitable organizations are executing such services and the services have been expanding.

According to him, because of various personal issues and everyone is highly absorbed in wining his/her own affairs, the philanthropic services provided by individuals are declining. However, as a society, developing the culture of volunteerism is critical, he said.

Bole Sub-City resident Tekle Bishaw said in earlier times, irregular voluntarism service has been much stronger. The social interaction of the society was highly intertwined. Though it was not measured by price and labor, irregular voluntarism service had been provided better.

These days, everyone is penetrating on individualism. Though people are living in the nearby area, they are not familiar one another.

Muluken agreed on the idea. As to him, the very cause of the problem is individualism. In earlier times, people had deeply rooted the idea that any damage which may occur in an individual will affect them directly. Even religiously, people internalized the moral value of making good for others for religious purpose. But now, the service is getting weaker.

On the other hand, for Mehari globalization has its own influence in eroding irregular voluntarism. The expansion of individualism is also the hindrance.

Matias said that voluntarism service in Ethiopia has long history. Following the Ethio-Italian war, the people has begun providing the service in an organized manner via Red Cross Association.

Since 2009, voluntarism has involved into government structure and coordinated at Ministry level. Prior to the endorsement of Youth National Policy, the voluntarism service had been conducted.

Concerning the solution, Tekle pointed out that bringing mutual consensus among the public on the benefit, inculcating the culture of voluntarism within children and applying it in structured way is critical.

Mehari on his part said that the elite should play decisive role to expand voluntarism via motivating the public. Colleges, universities, prominent people and other should also be exemplary in providing voluntarism services and contribute their share to make it sustainable.

Matwos said that making voluntarism culture of the society is the solution. Though there are limitations in coordinating the task, the community should exert efforts spending their money, time and knowledge to voluntarism.

Muluken said that it should be done more on the structure. There should be a system of cultivating children to provide support for the elderly. Voluntarism is a support.

As to Tekle, if the problem continues like this, irregular voluntarism would be disappeared and the damage it brings is huge. If we improve it, voluntarism brings immeasurable positive impacts for socio-economic and political development.

Mehari on his part said that if both private and public organizations should provide attention and they provide support to the destitute, the nations will grow better than ever before. The psychological advantage it would bring in the mindset of the society is also incalculable.

However, Muluken said "The decline in voluntarism has its own negative influence by increasing societal chaos."

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