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From volunteers to leaders. International Volunteers Day & 15 years of VCS.

5th of December is a special day for all the individuals and organizations engaged in voluntary work – International Volunteer Day. This year, it was also an important anniversary for the Youth NGO Volunteers Centre Skopje as our organization was celebrating its 15th birthday.

Nowadays, the world is looking for solutions on how to make everything work remotely, and so we found our way how to celebrate this special day. Last Saturday, we organized a virtual interactive Zoom session on the topic “Impact and Value of Volunteering: From Volunteers to Leaders”. The session was opened for anyone interested in the topic and we gathered in one place and time former and current volunteers as well as people who are willing to volunteer in the future.

Our host, Neda Ahcieva, opened the session with birthday wishes for VCS and gave the floor to our Director, Nikola Stankoski, who led as through the last 15 years of VCS.

The meeting was very interactive, together with the participants we were solving a Crossword Puzzle on the topic of volunteering. The next step was Interactive Whiteboard Activity on MURAL, a digital workspace. We let our participants write down their thoughts on what are the inspiration, benefits, value, impact, and motivation of volunteering.

“Volunteering gave me the feeling of doing something that actually matters – said Mathis, former EVS volunteer in VCS from Germany. – It gave me the feeling of the community, to be with other people who have the same ideals and the same ideas and who do something together.”

Different aspects inspire us to volunteer. One of them is seeking ways to grow.

“Learn something for free – said Gjoko, the youth activist. – By volunteering we are learning different kinds of skills, which can be useful in our future”.

The benefits of volunteering are multiple. It can be a lot of fun stories to share and meeting new people who are becoming your friends, according to Sascha, former EVS volunteer in VCS from Germany. Paulina, also a former EVS volunteer in VCS from Poland, mentioned personal experience and personal development and growth as a person.

Andrej, current project coordinator in VCS, quoted a popular sitcom “Friends” – “There is no selfish good deed”, which means that through volunteering you do a lot of good for others and you always get something back for yourself as well. You give – you get.

What is the value of volunteering?

“Volunteers bring a different way of thinking to the organization, to improve the organization, the project, and the community – said Camille, former EVS volunteer in VCS from France. – Volunteers bring awareness, joy, and investment. You are not a volunteer for money, you are a volunteer for experience, to learn. Bringing joy is one of the main jobs, you are gonna invest yourself to bring joy and awareness.”

Thinking about the impact of volunteering, we concluded that the volunteers are being role models. For example, when we organize cleaning actions and other people see us, they may stop littering. Volunteers inspire and as Neda, our host of the event, said: “Enthusiasm and empathy are contagious. If people see you doing something, they might want to join”.

In a nutshell, this has been a very inspiring session. We got an in-depth insight into the dawn of the VCS adventure. Participants were able to crystalize what is the essence of volunteerism. Despite some of them never met beforehand, we noticed very quickly we are sharing the same spark which motivates us to foster solidarity and dialogue both locally and across borders.

What shall be your motivation to try yourself in the role of a volunteer? In the next stage of our zoom session, we could hear speeches of some former volunteers who were sent to the projects abroad from Macedonia in past years, as well as volunteers who came to volunteer to Macedonia from different European countries. All the stories were inspiring and pointed out one really important thing about their journey – what volunteering brought to them and how much life-changing experience it was. We as individuals, through volunteering, add value to society. It should be something motivating you to volunteer in the future.

The event was a good occasion to gather people who once becoming a volunteer, never left this path and are still trying to make a change in the society, to give something from themselves, to make an impact, and to spread joy.

“There are studies how volunteering makes people healthier, happier, makes them feel that they have sense of purpose in life” – concluded Neda.