A tough year: Volunteering during 2020

2020 has been a hard year to say the least. Deaths, political squabbling and soaring COVID-19 cases have continuously dominated our daily news coverage. Yet even with the grim news, heartening stories have emerged. Amongst the difficulty, the solidarity and selflessness displayed by many volunteers, who despite challenging conditions have kept working, is a reassuring reminder of the good in society.

This week, in honour of the UN’s 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence, Rumah Faye will be looking at the significance of volunteers during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Importance of volunteers:

The importance that volunteers have in creating and maintain social good cannot be overemphasized.  Whether done on a large scale, through international organisations such as the Red Cross, or on a local grassroots level, volunteers make an impact in communities where money and resources are spread unfortunately thin.

For Rumah Faye volunteer Ranggi Aprilianzah, volunteering is a great way to make a difference. “I think volunteering is very important in Indonesia,” said Mr. Aprilianzah. “In traditional Indonesian society, volunteering has always been really important. Through volunteering we can help other people and contribute to a better society and even if we have no money, we can use our knowledge and time to make a difference.”

Based in Jakarta, Mr Aprilianzah has been volunteering for two years. He says he was drawn to volunteering whilst in University. “I took a class on social welfare and we discussed a lot about how volunteering affects our society so that’s why I became interested in joining Rumah Faye. Whilst the pandemic is a huge issue, after working at Rumah Faye I am increasingly concerned about the prevalence of child trafficking. The pandemic has made this problem worse.”

The effect of COVID-19:

Across the globe in 2020, volunteers have worked hard to fill in the gaps left by the government. In Wuhan, volunteer drivers stepped in when public transportation was suspended. In Australia, distilleries which had made gin, switched to making hand sanitiser. In Norway, a group of COVID-19 survivors helped run services which would have otherwise exposed those who were not immune to greater risk.

For Indonesia, this same selfless trend can be seen. In October, Education and culture minister Nadiem Makarim said at least 15,000 people had signed up to volunteer in COVID-19 mitigation efforts since April. On top of this, informal initiatives have also been created. A group of data scientists and health experts called the ‘Guard Against Covid-19,’ banded together to try gather data for the government. In addition, the Indonesian Scout Movement (Pramuka) had more than 4,500 of its volunteers help the government implement some of it’s COVID-19 handling.

For Mr Aprilianzah, the importance of volunteering has only increased during the COVID-19 Pandemic. “Volunteering will continue to be really important during the pandemic,” he said. “Across Indonesia, people are in lockdown and they cannot access many things they need such as health facilities. During lockdowns it also becomes easier for people to exploit them and take away their human rights.”

There are a few things people can do to keep the vital work that volunteer organisations do going. For one, volunteer organisations rely heavily on personal donations. Even small cash donations can help provide facemasks or hand sanitiser for volunteers.

The public can help by becoming a volunteer too. Whilst volunteers on the field are always needed, many volunteering jobs can be done online or over the phone too.

For Mr Aprilianzah, the payoffs of being a volunteer are worth it. “My advice for volunteers is that you should be prepared to put in a lot of work, be committed and think about why you want to join. But increasingly in Indonesia, where there is a lot of social problems, we will continue to need volunteers to solve them.”

Author: Maxwell Lowe
Editor: Mellysa Anastasya

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