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Investing in volunteering is an investment in the future

Posted on | Investing in volunteering is an investment in the future

On 14 November 2023, Samaritan International organised a policy debate with high-level stakeholders to discuss the importance and value of qualified volunteering for our societies.

Volunteering is not only an expression of civic engagement, which is vital for living democracies, but structurally committed volunteers are also a necessity for the work of the members of Samaritan International, both in the area of disaster preparedness and response, as well as in the area of comprehensive social service provision.

The panelists included Mr. Christoph Nerlich from the cabinet of the European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights, Nicolas Schmit, Ms. Gabriella Civico, Director of the Centre of European Volunterering and Ms. Renata Penazzi, Director of the Asociácia Samaritánov Slovenskej Republiky and Vice-President of Samaritan International.  The debate was moderated by SAM.I. president and former Member of the European Parliament, Knut Fleckenstein.

The event took place in the framework of the European Year of Skills to put the spotlight on skills beyond the labour market, which often seem to get sidelined in the political debate.

In his opening speech, SAM.I. Secretary-General Mr. Ivo Bonamico stressed that qualified volunteering is the key to resilient societies, especially during times where societies are becoming more and more polarized and trust in political institutions is diminishing.  

During the debate it was highlighted that volunteering is more than task delivery, but much more about human connections, democratic and social values. However, volunteers are often taken for granted and get acknowledged only during crisis times. Better communication from civil society organisations about their work is necessary to get more public attention. The EU’s Erasmus+ program and the Europe on the move initiative were discussed as concrete examples of EU support to adult learning, including through volunteering.

The concluding remarks were given by Member of the European Parliament, Mr Herbert Dorfmann, in which he reiterated that volunteering is an important expression of solidarity and plays a particular important role for social cohesion in rural areas.

With a view to the upcoming elections of the Members of the European Parliament, Samaritan International will continue to call for a stronger focus of the European Parliament and the European Commission on building up social resilience through increased support to both, organized civil society and civic engagement of the individual. Actively engaged citizens are not only essential to complement shortcomings of our social and care systems, or for responding to natural disasters, they also actively live and promote European democratic values and foster solidarity and social cohesion.