The final report on the Athens’ conference is now available online

The Athens EU-level Thematic Conference on volunteering was the third of four such conferences organised by the European Commission in the context of the European Year of Volunteering 2011. Its purpose was to look at the world of volunteering through the eyes of the volunteering organisations, to identify and discuss the problems they face. It was, therefore, the sister conference of the 2nd EU-level thematic conference that was held in Brussels in May, which looked at the world of volunteering through the eyes of the individual volunteers.

The conference was designed to be highly interactive, giving the participants a maximum of opportunity to express themselves in a participative approach marked by ‘open space’, ‘world café’ and ‘pro-active world café’ formats.

213 persons were registered for the event, with around half coming from EU-level networks of organisations involving volunteers (mainly members of the EYV 2011 Alliance), and the remainder comprising representatives from Member State governments, businesses and Greek NGOs.

You can see the report of the conference here.


EYV2011 Tour book is out!

The book containing highlights, stories and photos of the EYV2011 tour has been published! Read all about the events, activities, volunteers, organizations, celebrities and high-profile visitors that attended the Tour stops in all 27 EU Member states. Check out photos of the action from Athens to Warsaw, Brussels to Vilnius. Oh, and let’s not forget the relay reporters, flick through the pages and trace their steps as they help spread the Volunteering message across Europe!

The European Commission designated 2011 as the European Year of Volunteering. Both a celebration and a challenge, the Year set out to recognise and thank the millions of people in Europe who make a difference by working in their communities during their free time with-out being paid. Hundreds of innovative, informative and enlightening activities, discussions and workshops enabled visitors to get up close and personal with volunteers and the organisations behind them.

It also aimed to raise awareness about volunteering and encourage new volunteers to sign up, by showing them the multiple avenues and advantages to becoming a volunteer — both for society as a whole and for each and every individual who volunteers.

The EYV Tour represented one of the main arteries of the Year. Visiting all 27 EU Member States, over the 12-month period it brought Europe closer to volunteers and volunteers closer to society.

Each 3-14 day tour stop provided volunteers with the chance to exhibit their work, meet one another, engage with policy-makers and the general public, convey their energy and enthusiasm and discuss key issues of their work.

Extraordinary stories from ordinary people inspired members of the public to consider how they too could volunteer and improve their communities at local, national and European levels. Important policy makers and stakeholders joined debates on how to support and improve life for volunteers around the world and to encourage new volunteers to sign up.

Thanks to the EYV Relay and the presence of media, many of these events were publicised and reached a wide audience. The EYV Tour could not have existed without the help of countless volunteers across Europe. This book is dedicated to each and every one of them, and to every volunteer that gives their time, devotion and energy to making a difference to society as a whole.


A remarkable closure of the EYV Tour in Malta

The Maltese EYV Tent closed its doors on 5th December after a very successful week full of activities. Every day was dedicated to a different field: Tuesday 28th November, 2011-Animal Welfare, Wednesday 30th November, 2011 – Art, Culture and Sport, Thursday 1st December, 2011 – Environment, Friday 2nd December, 2011 – Health, Saturday 3rd December, 2011 – Youth & Education and Sunday 4th December, 2011 – Social and Humanitarian.

About 1000 students attended morning activities prepared specially for them. All of them participated in cartoon sessions aiming at raising awareness among children on volunteering. The cartoon called „Tommy & Rosy” has been produced by MEUSAC – Malta-EU Steering and Action Committee. The sessions were followed by a discussion and sharing of impressions of the children.

The event attracted several VIPs. On 30th November, day dedicated to Art, Culture & Sports, Mario Debono, a National Olympic athlete gave a talk on sport volunteering & the benefits of sport. On the same day, the Hon. Dolores Cristina, the Minister of Education, Employment and the Family, exchanged impressions with the organizations present in the marketplace and visited a small exhibition of arts and local products by various artisans.

On 1st December, day of volunteering in environment, the tent received a surprise visit from the Minister for Resources and Rural Affairs George Pullicino who visited the stands of the marketplace and learnt about the different organizations that were present, such as GS 1 Malta, SOS Malta, Nature Trust or Malta Girl Guides. Among the activities that attracted a great attention that day was the explanation of the life cycle of bees, of how they produce honey and how they should be protected; this included many lively species of bees!

Every day there was a cultural or musical animation. The Maltese Scouts Association held a meeting at the event and performed in front of the tent. Every evening short film sessions were offered to the participants and several evening discussions were broadcasted on the Education TV Channel.

The Maltese Tour closed on Monday 5th December by a gala event in the Tent. On this special occasion the National coordinators prepared a presentation that resumed all the activities that were held in Malta in the framework of the year. A section was also dedicated to the Relay reporters and the video was shown on their activities. The MCVS launched its volunteer matching web site which will serve as the tool to link organisations with volunteers and the business sector.

The highlight of the closing ceremony was the presentation of the National Volunteer Award launched earlier this year by MCVS. The Malta Council for the Volunteer Sector (MCVS) established National Volunteer Award, which will be awarded every year on the 5th of December, International Volunteer Day, in order to recognise the important work carried out by those who volunteer with voluntary organisations which are non-profit, charities and NGOs, to contribute towards the rewarding and recognising achievements gained in volunteering activities and the raising of awareness of the value and importance of volunteering, to honour those men and women who, for no material gain, dedicate themselves to help others or work for a cause and to raise public awareness of the crucial role volunteers play in our society and therefore should be encouraged and supported. The National Volunteer Award was given as follows:

1st Place: Mr Joseph Mifsud (Mission Fund)

Joint 2nd Place: Ms Helen Muscat (Action for Breast Cancer), and Ms Miriam Bonnici (National Parents Society for Persons with Disability & Malta Society of the Blind)

3rd Place: Mr John L. Peel (National Parents Society for Persons

with Disability)

The Awards were presented by Mr. Robert Farrugia, Chairperson MCVS, Mr. Martin Bugelli, Head EU Representation in Malta and Prof. Kenneth Wain, Commissioner for Voluntary Organisations.

The Maltese EYV Tour stop was a remarkable closure of the European Year of Volunteering, which managed to attract about 2000 visitors and brought together more than 50 volunteering organizations, an amazing outcome for the smallest country of the European Union.


Volunteering and the Financial Impact in the Maltese EYV Tour

As part of the last lap of the European Tour 2011 being held in Malta, on the eve of the 30th November 2011 a discussion was held in the tent with the theme ‘Volunteering and the Financial Impact’.

The discussion, which was moderated by PBS presenter Ms Ruth Castillo, had a panel of five guest speakers coming from various areas of the Voluntary Sector. The panel was composed of Mr. Nathan Farrugia, CEO Inspire and Member of the Malta Council of the Voluntary Sector (MCVS), Mr. Lawrence Farrugia, President of the Band Clubs Association, Mr Matthew Borg, Researcher, Ms Simone Cutajar, member of Greenhouse, university students organisation and Mr Mauro Pace Parascandalo, Executive Secretary of the MCVS.

The discussion focused on the impact of voluntary organisations on the economy and its contribution to the same society it operates in. It was mentioned that apart from the intrinsic value of volunteering, volunteering is a valid contributor to the economy. It is a fact that voluntary organisations deliver several services which are essential to society. These services, ranging from health to environment, from culture to sport, from education to animal welfare, are of a professional standard. Not only do these organisations have the expertise and the experience to deliver such services, but voluntary organisations tend to be more cost effective since they balance their services between paid and volunteer staff.

Both the local and European authorities should recognise this financial contribution more by putting into place a structure which supports these organisations. It is not enough that funds are made available to these organisations, but that these funds are accessible. By accessible one means that some funds may only be acquired through a lot of bureaucracy which costs the organisations a fortune to even start off. There should be funds of smaller quantity which could be availed of by small organisations and that would not need a high level of management. It was also mentioned that local voluntary organisations are paying high fees when acquiring services since most service providers only have a domestic or a commercial rate, both of which do not apply for such organisations.


Results from research on volunteering in Slovakia, presented during the EYV Tour in Bratislava

Mrs. Alžběta Brozmanová Gregorová from the Department of Social Work in the Pedagogic Faculty of the Matej Bél University in Banská Bystrica and Mrs Tatiana Matulayová from the Social Work department of the Faculty of Arts of Prešov University were in charge of the latest research on volunteering in Slovakia and had the opportunity to share the results of their work with the EYV Tour participants. 

The research was part of the national campaign of the European Year of Volunteering and focused on the quantitative and the qualitative aspects of volunteering in Slovakia.

973 Slovak citizens over 15 years old were interviewed and filled in a questionnaire. This methodology produced some interesting statistics: in the last 12 months 27.5% of the population took part in volunteering activities through a volunteering organisation. This classifies the Slovak Republic with an average level of involvement in volunteering in Europe. 47.1% of the population are involved in non formal volunteering which means that they help others but who are not part of an organisation.

In Slovakia involvement in non formal volunteering rather than formal volunteering is characteristic as it is the case in most of European countries, however both types are connected. A high number of volunteers involved in formal volunteering are also active in non formal volunteering and vice versa.

Slovak volunteers are men and women from all backgrounds who equally get involved in volunteering throughout Slovakia. The least involved age group are 15 – 19 year olds. The survey also showed that the higher level of education received the higher the involvement in volunteering, with this in mind University students and working citizens are the most involved. The salary is an important factor, but it doesn’t mean that the level of involvement in volunteering increases proportionally to the height of salary. The most involved citizens are those whose salary is between 600 and 900€ per month.

Slovak religious groups also play an important part in volunteering and become more active in non formal volunteering while the formal volunteering attracts believers and non-believers equally.

Slovak Volunteers participate in many diverse activities in many different places. The majority of formal volunteers – 56.3% – are active in non-profit and nongovernmental organisations where 25% cooperate with an organisation managed by a regional or local administration. The most frequent area of volunteering is social services followed by environment, art and culture, sports, church related activities, children and youth organisations related activities and charity.

The most frequent non-formal volunteering activities are carried out in the household, property maintenance, pets, taking care of children, etc.

The main reasons that motivate Slovaks to volunteer are based on values: the importance of helping others, social interaction, wishing to meet new people via volunteering and establish new friendships. The main barrier surrounding volunteering is threefold: the lack of information available on volunteering, those in need do not ask for help, and a lack of time.

There were also interesting statistics on the benefits of volunteering? 92.9 % of the participants from the survey answered that the main reason is that they like what they do. Other important benefits are the satisfaction of carrying out work, broadening of experiences, personal growth, acquiring new skills, etc.

Nevertheless experiences gained during volunteering activities are still not understood as transferrable into professional life and development.

Those and other statistics were discussed during a very interesting presentation.


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The Launch of the Slovak EYV Tour

The Slovak EYV Tour opening was held on the 15th of November in the Ministry of Culture and offers a busy agenda of debates, workshops and entertainment.

Mrs. Eva Masárová, director of the Youth Department of the Ministry of Education opened the session and expressed her wish that the tour will motivate more people to become volunteers, especially the younger generation.

Mrs. Andrea Elscheková – Matisová, head of the EC Representation in Slovakia, underlined the importance of Voluntary work. She explained that the objective of the European Year of Volunteering and of the European Years in general is to raise awareness amongst the general public, experts and politicians and establish a basis for long term positive trends.

The Slovak EYV Tour is supported by the Mayor of Bratislava. Michal Feik, his advisor, shared with the public several successful volunteering initiatives that have been promoted by the municipality such as cleaning the city by volunteers before the ice-hockey world championship, or a citizen initiative that managed to stop the demolition of PKO ( a famous cultural center). Participatory budget is another initiative where citizens have the opportunity to intervene on a voluntary basis.  They can decide on how one percent of the municipality budget will be used.

Gabriela Gliševičová, from the Slovak Youth Institute and the National coordinating body for the European Year of Volunteering, made a short overview of the activities that have been undertaken throughout the year. The objective of the EYV in Slovakia was twofold: research on the volunteering situation in Slovakia on one hand and a communication campaign on the other hand.

The research was done in collaboration with experts from the Matel Bel  University in Banská Bystrica and the Prešov University and ran during May and June 2011. It showed that volunteering is quite frequent fenomenon  among Slovak citiyens.  According to the study,  27,5 %  of the population is involved in „formal volunteering“  which means voluntereing in a context of an organization. In the meantime,  47,1 % of citizens are involved in „non – formal volunteering“ which means helping  other people outside the family and not organized via an NGO or similar organization.

At the end of the session a relay was handed from the organizors of the EYV to the National coordinator of the following European Year which will be dedicated to active ageing. Mrs. L’Ubica Zajacová from the Directorate General of Human Rights and Equal Treatment made a short introduction of the activity plan for next year.

During the next five days the Slovak Tour will offer a lot of activities, workshops and debates related to different volunteering areas such as: volunteering in art and culture, youth, corporate, healt and prevention, leisure and social inclusion. A number of cultural activities will accompany the tour.  In total 37 organizations are involved in the program.



EYV 2011 Tour in Prague culminated a jam-packed year of volunteer programming

The Czech EYV 2011 Tour Stop concluded on 7 November 2011, after a week full of diverse activities including morning workshops for schools followed by debates and presentations.

On 3 November, a conference on strategic corporate volunteering brought together representatives from companies that are members of the ‘Know-how for a better world network’. They discussed the current situation and challenges in the area of professional support for NGOs. The participants raised the issue of the importance of preparing both the corporate volunteers and the NGOs for successful collaborations. On the one hand, non-governmental organisations are more effective when primed to receive professional help and need to be able to work autonomously. On the other hand, volunteers are more successful when they have at least basic knowledge about how the non-profit sector works, especially in relation to legal issues and finance.

Diverse cultural and entertaining activities accompanied the Tour: a canistherapy workshop (dogs used for psychotherapeutic purposes), desk games, handicrafts, an Esperanto workshop, and dances either performed by deaf children or presented on Native American culture. African drum performances, improvisation theatre performance, indoor and outdoor scavenger hunt and many other activities also took place.

On 6 November, an interesting activity called ‘Living library’ took place. The ‘Living library’ is an innovative method designed to promote dialogue, reduce prejudice and encourage understanding. People who directly interacted with the public were volunteers who shared testimonials that represented books and experiences from different genres. The participants had the opportunity to ‘borrow’ these volunteer “actors” for a personal conversation and engaged in exchange with their ‘living books’.

The last day of programming offered interesting workshops related to PR and fundraising in a non-profit setting. The main topics discussed during the session illustrated the importance of PR and how it is connected to the overall function and the focus of organizations. PR tools, basic conditions for good practice, the principals of communication between the public and the media were also covered

The EYV 2011 Tour in the Czech Republic offered a space for presenting volunteer activities in addition to a format for discussion between volunteers and the public. The volunteers transmitted their enthusiasm and energy to the participants, with a special interest towards inspiring young people in becoming volunteers themselves.


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