By Harindrini Corea (18) Student Bachelor of Law (LLB)
Volunteerism. Activism. Being the change that you want to see in the world. As a young person, today when I look around, I see and hear of groups, movements, events and programmes all aimed at incorporating a culture of volunteerism and activism in the lives of people. I have been inspired by the numerous selfless and silent acts of volunteers across Sri Lanka. The unsung heroes of our country need to be recognized and rewarded for their initiatives and commitment in serving those in need and their country. Sometimes volunteerism is undervalued or misjudged as futile acts of ‘jobless’ young people before their ‘real’ lives begin. Sometimes the act of volunteering is given a role it cannot fulfil such as replacing action by the state or certain organisations. Sometimes the rationale behind volunteerism is not of service and sacrifice but rather of seeking fame and fortune.
It is generally said that civil society is in a deep slumber of apathy, the concept of protest culture is alien and volunteerism and activism is viewed as a hobby rather than as a lifestyle. Too many people see something happen and choose to turn a blind eye to it. Activism could include reporting to the police a man who sexually harasses a woman on a bus, preventing abuse of women and children or challenging gender and ethnic prejudices and stereotypes in your circle of influence; anything that would create the type of society that people would be proud to be part of. A society that does not only appear to be morally, religiously and culturally upright on the surface but really is. Volunteerism and Activism consist of standing up for your beliefs and principles. Certain people have little interest in being activists or volunteers; they live in a little bubble, only concerned with their own relationships and the daily events of their lives.
Activism doesn’t require you to be a distinguished academic or a good public speaker but just that you care for others and want to make a difference in someone else’s life; you want to make a difference in your motherland and contribute to the construction of a society that knows the importance of and practices integrity, equality and compassion for others. We do not live in a world of defeatism where we can do nothing and say nothing and be nothing. Our opinions do matter and if we feel that something is not correct we need to find the courage to stand up and change it. Volunteerism and Activism is an attitude. It is an attitude of giving magnanimously without expecting anything in return.
Many young people are motivated by the desire to win and they develop a competitive drive in all they do. Whilst healthy competition is important and should be encouraged, some people may infuse this competitive spirit into volunteerism as well. Thus they miss out on the joy and satisfaction you find through selflessly caring for others and contributing towards constructive positive transformation.
When we encounter problems in society we expect others to take the lead, find a solution and put it right. Volunteerism and Activism requires each of us to engineer our own creative solutions in these situations. We need to build a culture of volunteerism and activism so that ordinary people can be extraordinary agents of change. Don’t wait for tomorrow to make the difference. Do it today.