KATHMANDU, May 9: “Volunteering is not just for the rich who want to do some social work,” says 27-year-old Jitjuta Panjasuwan from Thailand who is currently in Kathmandu with ActionAid’s Activista, a platform for youth to volunteer, learn and share.
Every year, Activista brings together youth from all around the globe involved in volunteer work to educate and empower them through workshops, campaign planning, among other things.
They are not paid but the knowledge that is passed on is “incomparable to financial gains,” according to the volunteers.
Republica caught up with six young enthusiastic volunteers, all focusing on their particular fields but all hoping and trying their best to being about a change that they hope will be good for the future generations.
Anik Rahman, 22, is from Bangladesh and focuses on climate change, women empowerment and rural youth empowerment and has been volunteering for the past six years.
Thet Oo Maung (Stephen Mirus), 33, from Myanmar, was a businessman who turned to volunteering only from 2011. He says he wants to focus on freedom of expression and the right to information.
John Srane, 25, on the other hand, is a student in Denmark and is not yet part of Activista or volunteer work yet, but he says when he goes back home, the first thing he is going to do is join Activista, Denmark.
Jahangir Khan Bazai, 24, is from Pakistan and is involved mostly in Red Cross, first aid and disaster management.
From Nepal is Sawat Saday, 26, who has been working in woman empowerment, empowering the Dalit community, livelihood and health and also believes in advocacy.
“I started volunteering when there was a huge earthquake in Pakistan in 2005 and many people were displaced. My house too collapsed and I joined the Red Cross to help people,” says Jahangir.
Sawat and Stephen also started volunteering after natural calamities hit their countries five years ago.
For Anik, he thought he needs to give back to the Earth and its people and that’s when he started working as a volunteer.
“It’s not easy being a volunteer. You go to places and see the saddest things sometimes but we have to be strong because we are there to help,” says Anik, and adding to that, Sawat says, “especially in Nepal, and I guess I speak on behalf of most of the South East nations, that volunteering is not taken seriously and it’s a time passing work for many and we need to change this thinking. Volunteering is a serious job and it’s a great platform for the youth to learn things.”
All six of them have been working as volunteers in their respective countries and are representing them in Activista, Nepal.
When asked how they manage their budget because they are not paid, working as volunteer, Jahangir shares, “I read news and do one television show back home which is enough to cover my expenses and I save some which, again, is enough for me to spend here. But lodging and food is paid for by ActionAid here.”
John works part time helping differently-able people back home while Jitjuta works with a national level foundation in connection with CARE International. The rest also work full time and save enough to spend during their volunteering work.
“It’s not about money all the time but about satisfaction,” says Sawat. However, Anik and Stephen are not satisfied with their work because they feel they are capable to do much more and help more people. “You volunteer because you want to, not because you have to,” says Stephen.
In Nepal, typically in Kathmandu, the trend is that that the youth go out and start volunteering just for the certificate and to have it on their CVs.
“It becomes easier for them to apply to colleges abroad and it’s okay to do that but when you volunteer, you need to be serious and actually work,” opines Sawat.
Hailing from Siraha in Chitwan District of Nepal, Sawat has been involved in social work since his schooldays. “The satisfaction that I get from doing this is not comparable to anything,” he says.
“We are going to volunteer and help people till we die,” says Jahangir on behalf of the group, as everyone nods. The group of young people also encourage the youth here in Nepal to start volunteering during their free time and help the country.