0525_volunteer-andreas-schrank (3)I met Andreas a number of years ago through our ongoing work with our German member organisation, Gemeinsam leben und lernen in Europa, from Passau. First actively engaged in the organisation as a volunteer, Andreas is now a board member and responsible for the NGO’s PR activities. I asked him why volunteering has been important for him and he tells me that it has helped him to gain very valuable “real life” experience after finishing school. It showed him what is essential in life: caring for other people, not just having your own success and well being in mind. Thanks to volunteering Andreas has been able to discover and further develop his social and professional skills. “I learned how to work both independently and as a team, using resources most efficiently,” he says. “I think that volunteering always needs to add value to any society, beyond the basic services offered by the public sector. The unique potential of volunteering is grounded in helping people in a way they wouldn’t be helped otherwise.”

When speaking to Andreas about his ethos of volunteering, it comes across very strongly that he believes that more needs to be done to further improve volunteering, including making it more accessible for people with fewer opportunities. “I am convinced that the threshold to start voluntary activities needs to be further lowered,” says Andreas. “We’re supposed to show people that everybody benefits from volunteering, both the volunteer and the people they support. We mustn’t expect people to visit our organisations. Instead, it’s our turn to actively look for them and encourage them to join us, not being afraid of our own comfort zone.”

Andreas is now studying psychology at university. He is currently based in Bamberg, Germany but will be moving to Turkey in the autumn, where he will continue his studies. Volunteering, as he clearly points out, has helped him in a vital way: “It made me sure about my course of study and provided me with everything I need for being successful both in my professional and private life.”

By Piotr Sadowski