- Rajkamal Fakir
A new outbreak was later declared pandemic by WHO. This time it is different from any other outbreak like Ebola, Zika, SARS and MERS. The world immediately goes for lockdown and physical distancing is practiced like never before. Airport sees no planes nor do roads that often used to be full of traffic before. Industries shut in global scale, challenging the world economy with millions of jobs lost making large numbers of the population go unemployment at one and same time. An immediate emergency emerges questioning every form of government in every country. It spreads in speed as the speed our transportation speeds on infecting a wide range of people throughout the world. In the beginning, the cases skyrocketed in many wealthy countries claiming lives of an equally large number of individuals. The health system fails and isolation is the only reward which then sadly shuts the possibility to go out there and be of some help. Thus, volunteering, the idea of being of service to the needful one at required time is shaken in its belief and now gains new sets of its own limitations.
Volunteering is an effort to create a happy, healthy are hearty world and is a daily experience to a significant number of people whether it be volunteering overseas to make a positive impact or serving thy neighbors in needs as you would have to serve thyself. ‘Global estimates place the number of volunteers worldwide at 970 million’ says UN. Volunteering is a very active movement and with the Corona outbreak it has directed its course and acted in very passive yet powerful ways. Direct or face-face volunteering is inconsiderable at present hence finding a new way through virtual volunteering. Online discourses and training, sharing of skills and knowledge to be resilient through webinar, different technical approach to reach out vulnerable people has been the new way of volunteering. COVID-19 has opened a new era for volunteering changing many of its fundamental values. Though, it seems hard to predict what will be the ideal way of volunteering after the pandemic however we can say something with certain clarity. Volunteering in coming days is going to be more virtual than ever before. Via virtual volunteering, the brain muscles is going to a new field to tread open. Since, physical is limited and mental limitless, volunteering is going to help more people than in past history. As physical volunteering is restricted, the UN to reach its sustainability goal by 2030 is doubtful. Current restrictions in volunteering are going to affect underdeveloped and developing countries in many ways. As in general, volunteering is done mostly in these aforementioned countries but with virtual volunteering it is going to tackle many of problems that the developed countries are facing. Some examples can be anxiety, depression, eating disorder, identity crisis, PTSD and listless. Volunteering when shifted towards developed countries finding new ways of building communities and developing new sense of belongingness will I think significantly decrease suicide rates especially among retired age groups. Hence, the new era of volunteering will be tackling mental health problems in a phenomenal way.
Volunteering has also given fresh chance for the organizations that are involved in volunteering whether overseas or locally to have enough resources and idea to meet the immediate emergency and evacuate the on placement volunteer to safe and protected areas. Vaccines and insurance policies will be taken more seriously. New guidelines against escaping outbreak will be set and wildly preached among volunteers. Volunteers too when placed in remotest part of particular country be it any theme will have more relevance now to share his/her knowledge on how to hygiene. It is fact that huge number of active participation was seen during COVID-19 outbreak in volunteering. Images were viral in social media of people feeding daily wages worker but of course with physical distancing and all safety measures in consideration. Compassion was observed with vulnerable peoples and animals. Also, if people are on street volunteering during this life threatening situation then we can be sure that after this will be over there will be larger participation in volunteering through numbers that seem to decrease in the first few months or years. In isolation or staying at home all the time because of lockdown has made people realized that we are social animals and can’t stay in isolation longer enough. This realization is going to benefit society and hence volunteering in general. To realize that I am the part of whole is itself contributing for the sustainability of whole. We can have a gloomy picture of volunteering in an immediate future but in long run this can’t be true. Of course, new lines will be drawn and ways altered but the goals will be one and the same.. It will be beneficiary to the society of vulnerable who have-not imagined such things even existed let alone witnessing and to oneself as well as one have shut himself/herself for many months in isolation. One can be totally optimistic about volunteering after this pandemic. Volunteering after COVID-19 is going to experience the state of ne plus ultra.