ECMI hosts Minority Roundtable on Volunteering
2011 has been designated by the European Union (EU) as the “European Year of Volunteering.” According to the European Commission, almost 100 million citizens of all ages in the EU invest their time, talents and money to make a positive contribution to their community by volunteering in civil society organisations, youth clubs, hospitals, schools, in sport clubs, etc. To put this initiative in perspective, the ECMI invited representatives of the minorities in the Danish-German border region to participate in a roundtable discussion about volunteering within the national minorities. The Roundtable took place on 11 May 2011.
Participants from the Danish and the Frisian minorities in Schleswig-Holstein and from the German minority in Denmark presented their activities in the areas of culture and social volunteering. The presentations provided interesting insights into the tasks and challenges that members of the minorities meet in the daily lives as volunteers. Issues such as (1) professional support structures such as secretariats for volunteer work within the minority organizations, (2) how to attract all generations of minorities to devote time and responsibility to volunteering (3) whether there is a certain obligation to volunteer within a minority (4) the fact that payment is not made with money but with enrichment both for volunteers and the civil society organisations and (5) what to do in areas that are thinly populated with minorities were highlighted.
For the EU, volunteering is an active expression of civic participation which strengthens common European values such as democracy, solidarity and social cohesion. Volunteering also provides important learning opportunities, because involvement in voluntary activities can provide people with new skills and competences. Volunteering plays an important role in sectors as varied and diverse as education, youth, culture, sport, environment, health, social care, consumer protection, humanitarian aid, development policy, research, equal opportunities and external relations.
Objectives of the Year:
The EU will use the Year to work towards four main objectives:
1. To create an enabling and facilitating environment for volunteering in the EU;
2. To empower volunteer organizations and improve the quality of volunteering;
3. To reward and recognise volunteering activities; and
4. To raise awareness of the value and importance of volunteering.
For more on the European Year go to the special website for the initiative.