“Dad. I’d like to go and volunteer at an Orphanage in the Philippines.” Danielle’s request comes somewhat out of the blue. She is in her last year of High School, but until now, discussions had been about University and further study. Not volunteering in some far-off land.
I look over at Danielle. There is a hard determination about this girl… and lord knows she has me wrapped around her finger – but the Philippines. I’ve been to Manila a couple of times, and it hardly seems like the place you’d want your 17-year old daughter running around in.
“Dad…” There is a long pause, as she looks me right in the eye. “This is important to me. You have your cause, and I’ve got mine. And I think you should support me going to help orphans.”
I let a little smile crease into the corner of my mouth. Danielle is good at judging people… and making them do things for her. Perhaps she inherited this skill from me.
I think back to when I was 17. Certainly there were never any thoughts of my mates or I volunteering for anything. It was all about the money. Get a degree, then go out and start making the bucks. Show me the money because that was what mattered. Somehow, something has changed between then and now. Kids don’t want to just get a degree and go to work now. Some of them want a gap year. Some of them want to see a bit of the world. Some of them want some adventure. And for some of them… Well they want a cause – they want to be part of something that is bigger then just them.
When I first started building the Earthrace boat a few years back, it amazed me when people started turning up and helping us for free. Then after the vessel was launched, for four years we had a seemingly endless supply of volunteers prepared to give up their time. Some helped for a day or two, while others gave up a year or more of their life.
At the time I was thankful, but also somewhat perplexed by this generosity. Looking at it now, these people really wanted to be part of our mission. We were promoting renewable fuels and travelling the world doing cool stuff, and they wanted in. They wanted to be part of our tribe.
Today, this burgeoning group of young people motivated by more than just money and assets are a resource many organisations are readily tapping into. I helped out in a beach cleanup recently, and there were over 200 people there all donating their time. You’d wish of course that our societies were smart enough to not dump the rubbish in the first case, but given its presence, it was amazing to be part of such a massive effort.
The expense and commitment of the volunteers can also be enormous. Consider Taiji, which in some ways has become like a Holiday destination for Volunteers. Getting in the faces of Japanese may not be everyone’s idea of a vacation, but for a large number of people, it is now firmly established on the Animal Rights calendar. They pay their travel, food, accommodation, not to mention giving up all their leave entitlement, and all to be on the front line of the battle for small cetaceans. Some may debate this is not the best way to solve the yearly dolphin slaughter, but you can’t help but admire these people’s commitment.
It is not just Animal Rights and beach cleanups however that is attracting people. You can volunteer for a myriad of different causes – from Wildlife preservation and clean cities, to human rights and youth development – all increasingly depend on Volunteers to do their good work. Oh… and also an Orphanage in the Philippines.
I look over at Danielle, who remains with a determined look on her face. Who can say no to such a noble cause, as assisting orphaned babies in Asia? My generation maybe skipped the volunteering gig, but it is most heartening that a new generation has not.