Volunteerism – it’s all of our business

Volunteerism – it’s all of our business

I came across a great story the other day on social media. Someone had snapped a picture of the text with no attribution. It goes like so:

“This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody. There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about that, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realised that Everybody wouldn’t do it. In the end, Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.”

Volunteerism forms an essential component of the well-being of any community, from parents serving in school tuckshops to the experienced global team of volunteers who recently rescued the young Thai soccer team from the flooded cave.

At heart, volunteerism is about heart: it’s about community relationships and how to foster a stronger, healthier community for all participants. South Africa in particular has a community problem.

It is not news to us that we live in an unequal society, one in which the experience of people living in different communities is “worlds apart”. But it may be news to some to hear that our wealth and income distribution patterns are outliers even against the growing inequality in the rest of the world and the dominance of the 1% which has received much attention post the 2008 financial crisis. In South Africa, we have a 10% issue.

Victor Sulla, lead author of a 2018 World Bank Report on poverty and inequality in South Africa, was quoted recently by Daily Maverick saying, “If you take the top 10%, they live like in Austria. So, it’s a very high level even by European standards or even by US standards. And we are talking just about employees, people who are getting paid. And not the super-rich who are earning income from factories or property or other investments.”

Sulla adds, “The people at the bottom… they get wages comparable to the people who live in Bangladesh. It’s very, very poor. Wages of less than $50 a month.”

According to research conducted by the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU), 50% of South Africans are chronically poor, surviving on a monthly household per capita income of R1,149. In such conditions, there is no possibility of income mobility and patterns of wealth and income are entrenched.

The onus is on the rest of us who can to step out of the entrenched patterns of the past so as to create an equitable society; one in which the intergenerational income mobility needed for a healthy, stable community is a reality, one in which individuals are able to better themselves and lift themselves out of poverty.

The way we do this is for Everybody to make volunteerism their business. Supporting childhood education initiatives and the skills development that get young adults job-ready are two vital pillars of a strong community. Read up about Common Good’s Literacy and Numeracy interventions and their growing network of Collaboration Schools, or learn more about the Zanokhanyo Network, their response to the great challenge of unemployment. If you’re unsure where to begin, consider taking a Justice Journey course to learn more about the issues surrounding social justice and how to engage those affected.

We are, all of us, able to give of our skills, experience and finances to support these and other such initiatives. Anybody can do it. Be that Somebody!

In the words of President Barak Obama’s at the 2018 Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture. “We’ve been through darker times, we’ve been in lower valleys… Every generation has the opportunity to remake the world. Mandela said, ‘Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.’ Now is a good time to be aroused.

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