The What? Who? Why? and How? of Volunteering

and Information About Volunteering in Lebanon


What is Volunteering?
Who Can Volunteer?
Why Volunteer? (By Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.)
How Does One Become a Volunteer?
Information About Volunteering in Lebanon

Volunteering for the Learning to CARE Institute


What is Volunteering?
Volunteer service has been a part of virtually every civilization and society. It can be defined in the broadest terms as the contribution that individuals make as non-profit, non-wage, non-career action for the well-being of their neighborhood, community or society at large. Volunteer service takes many forms, from traditional customs of self-help to community-based responses in time of crisis. The concept includes local and national volunteer efforts, as well as bilateral and international programs which operate across national borders. Volunteerism is the basis of much of the activity of non-governmental organizations, professional associations, trade unions and civic organizations.
Source: UN publications for International Year of Volunteers 2001

To the Learning to CARE Institute, volunteering must be free in two essential respects. First, the service must be done for free, meaning without any financial compensation. An organization may compensate a volunteer for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in volunteering (transportation, uniform, etc.), but if it compensates a volunteer for his time, s/he is no longer a volunteer. Benefits to the volunteer should be non-monetary (satisfaction, skills, friendships, etc.) Second, the service must be freely offered, and not required by the courts, by a course or graduation requirement, or by an employer. Such required service can appropriately be called community service, but is less appropriately called volunteering.

Who Can Volunteer?
Everyone can volunteer: people of all ages, nationalities, religions, sects, regions of the country, professions and skills, abilities and disabilities, housewives, workers and students, the retired, the aged, the handicapped, the prisoners, the homebound, the rich, the poor, the educated, the illiterate, citizens, residents, and visitors to a country or region.

Some people may be able to volunteer any time of the day or night, others may only be able to volunteer in the evenings, on weekends, or on vacations. Some may be able to volunteer every day, others only once a week, once a month, or even only once a year. But everyone can volunteer somewhere, sometime, somehow.

Why Volunteer?
By Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons, especially wanting to help others. But it's also OK to want some benefits for yourself from volunteering.

Some people are uncomfortable with the notion that a volunteer "benefits" from doing volunteer work. There is a long tradition of seeing volunteering as a form of charity, based on altruism and selflessness. The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others, but this does not exclude other motivations, as well.

Instead of considering volunteering as something you do for people who are not as fortunate as yourself, begin to think of it as an exchange.

Consider that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. So today you may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow you may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer effort. Even now you might be on both sides of the service cycle: maybe you are a tutor for someone who can't read, while last month the volunteer ambulance corps rushed you to the emergency room. Volunteering also includes "self-help." So if you are active in your neighborhood crime watch, your home is protected while you protect your neighbors' homes, too. Adding your effort to the work of others makes everyone's lives better.

Your Motivations
Think about how much you receive when you give and consider why you want to volunteer. You may have several different reasons. Here are just a few of the many possible motivations identified by other volunteers:

  •  to feel needed

  •  to share a skill

  •  to get to know a community

  •  to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief

  •  to gain leadership skills

  •  to act out a fantasy

  •  to do your civic duty

  •  because of pressure from a friend or relative

  •  satisfaction from accomplishment

  •  to keep busy

  •  for recognition

  •  to repay a debt

  •  to donate your professional skills

  •  because there is no one else to do it

  •  to have an impact

  •  to learn something new

  •  to help a friend or relative

  •  for escape

  •  to become an "insider"

  •  guilt

  •  to be challenged

  •  to be a watchdog

  •  to feel proud

  •  to make new friends

  •  to explore a career

  •  to help someone

  •  as therapy

  •  to do something different from your job

  •  for fun!

  •  for religious reasons

  •  to earn academic credit

  •  to keep skills alive

  •  because an agency is geographically close

  •  to have an excuse to do what you love

  •  to be able to criticize

  •  to assure progress

  •  to feel good

  •  to be part of a team

  •  to gain status

  •  because you were asked

  •  to test yourself

  •  to build your resume

  •  to be an agent of change

  •  because of personal experience with the problem, illness, or cause

  •  to stand up and be counted

You will probably have some special reasons of your own. Remember that the motivations that lead you to select the place to volunteer may not be the reasons why you stay. Once you're on the volunteer job, you will continue to serve as long as you feel that your efforts are accomplishing something, that your talents are appreciated, and that you make a difference. And if you also like the people with whom you work, so much the better!

As long as you are truly serving through your volunteer work, isn't it wonderful that such an exchange occurs? In fact, it tends to strengthen your commitment to volunteering when you can see the benefits to both the recipient of your efforts and to yourself. And it is much more comfortable than "charity" because it upholds the self-esteem of those with whom you volunteer.

Copyright Energize, Inc., used by the personal permission of Susan J. Ellis, with minor changes for clarity for non-native English speakers, and sections deleted that are culturally limited to the USA.

How Does One Become a Volunteer?

Once you are convinced that you would like to become a volunteer, the question that remains is How? It is very important to find a volunteer opportunity that is right for you.

First, consider why you are volunteering - above and beyond your generalized interest in making the world a better place to live in, what are your personal motivations? Do you want to learn new skills, explore areas of society you know little about, consider a new career direction, share your hobbies with others, make new friends, improve your health, reciprocate benefits provided to you or someone you love, etc.? There are more than a hundred reasons people volunteer (see list above), and usually they are motivated by more than one reason. Your motivation(s) for volunteering should be an important consideration in choosing a volunteer opportunity appropriate to you. You also should look for a volunteer opportunity that fits your interests, skills, time limits and geographical limits. It would be best if you put in writing your own volunteer profile that lists all of these considerations and can be presented to organizations that you want to consider volunteering for.

The second concern is how to find the organization that fits with your profile. Consider organizations in your neighbourhood, organizations your friends volunteer for, organizations mentioned in articles in the newspaper, and if you are in a school or university, consider clubs that have volunteer programs. For those who want to volunteer in Lebanon, there is a listing of NGOs in Lebanon online at http://daleel-madani.org/. You should contact the organization directly (don’t have someone else do it for you). If possible, contact more than one organization and decide on which organization you want to volunteer for after meeting with them and discussing the opportunities they have that fit your profile. And if they do not have a volunteer opportunity that fits you, you might suggest ways you could help them. They may be very happy to have a volunteer help them in ways they never thought of.

Finally, before you start to volunteer, be sure to read the Rights and Responsibilities of a Volunteer in the Resources section of this website. Following these guidelines can make the difference between whether you have a good volunteer experience or not – as well as whether or not you are of real help to the organization that you volunteer for. 


Information About Volunteering in Lebanon

There are definitely opportunities to do volunteer work in Lebanon in most any area of the country in all areas of service (health, human rights, the physically or mentally disabled, the environment, the young, the old, the orphaned, or culture). If you are coming here to experience the culture while serving, you would probably do best to volunteer for more than one organization, though volunteering with one would allow a more deep and intensive experience. You may learn more about these organizations by seeing the Civil Society Directory on daleel-madani.org, which is the civil society portal for Lebanon.

For any organization to consider you, you need to provide some details about yourself - your interests, your skills (including languages), the length of time you plan to spend here, when, the amount of that time you want to devote to volunteerism, what you want to get out of the experience, etc. Including your CV is helpful, though it does not answer all the questions above. The organization will also want to know why you want to come to Lebanon specifically. Do you, for example, have some Lebanese heritage so that you want to connect with that heritage?

You need to be aware that few, if any, organizations in Lebanon have means to help you out financially. You will, thus, need to be prepared to cover your own airfare and living expenses in Lebanon.

Good luck in your search.


Volunteering for the Learning to CARE Institute

The Learning to CARE Institute is a social venture. This means that, while it is a for-profit institution, its main objective is to contribute positively to society - in our case, by seeking to promote volunteering and to improve the quality of volunteering and volunteer management. Our need to make profits is to assure the sustainability of our work, without the need for a Board of Directors, members, or fund-raising programs. Some of our programs are non-profit, like our sponsorship of Global Youth Service Days in Lebanon. And for such programs, we need volunteers. In other cases, (as with our EcoVolunTours, we offer the opportunity for youth to intern with us to develop their skills, gain experience in progam development, and participate in our programs without having to pay the participation fee. When we have volunteer and internship opportunities, we will post them on daleel-madani.org as well as on this page.

Volunteers Needed: At this time the only volunteer opportunity we have that is not currently filled is to translate our newsletter and other materials from English to Arabic, especially for our newsletter. Please write to us to help in this only if Arabic is your native language and you are a qualified translator (or in an advanced translation program at a recognized university).