Volunteering plays an indispensable and capital role in lifelong learning. In education and training, volunteers are young people, parents, learners or educators of all ages committed to improve education and training systems. Volunteers develop personal, social and civic competences that are seldom recognised by educational institutions and companies. Volunteers need to be supported if they express the wish to have the knowledge and skills acquired through volunteering recognised and validated. In terms of implementation, the European guidelines for validating non-formal and informal learning already offer prospective solutions. Other tools are being developed notably in the youth sector that ought to be better shared and known across Europe and across sectors. The development of portfolios for example can help volunteers being aware of their learning outcomes especially if they come with proper guidance. This process can boost volunteers´ motivation and self esteem as well as their employability.
The value of volunteering is an expression of active citizenship that enriches democracy and contributes to develop solidarity and social cohesion, a value which is not only in great need in the current economic and social climate, but also one upon which the European Union has been built. Moreover, volunteering contributes to develop a sense of common identity and mutual understanding. Volunteering is freely given, but not cost free – it needs and deserves targeted support from all stakeholders – volunteer organisations, government at all levels, businesses and an enabling policy environment including a volunteering infrastructures. EUCIS-LLL has made proposals to create a supportive environment for volunteering such as the provision of European active citizenship education at all levels of our education systems, better recognition of the skills acquired through volunteering and the recognition of volunteers’ involvement in EU and national projects. The EU should capitalize on the outputs of the European Year 2011 on Volunteering and on the European Year of Citizens 2013 to impulse better recognition, promotion and facilitation of volunteering in order to realise its full potential.
Let us honour and celebrate today the role played by thousands of volunteers across the world!