Volunteerism Must Be Part of Our Lives

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Volunteerism Must Be Part of Our Lives

The fourth group of participants in Korea Pioneers in Overseas NGOs, an international nongovernmental organization intern service group sponsored by the Joongang Ilbo, set sail for their mission in remote areas of Asia and Africa on Thursday.

They will be assigned to 22 overseas NGOs in 15 countries in Asia, North and South America and Africa, like Cameroon''s Save the Children, providing services for the needy starting from the end of January.

Experience in overseas services will not only enhance the volunteers spiritually, but will also provide an excellent opportunity to promote the role of Korea in the world. Efficiently trained volunteers are the most valuable assets of the nation and society because they lighten the darkness of global society like a beacon.

Nowadays many futurologists think volunteer activities will be the most important among the various activities of humankind in the 21st century.

What they take into consideration is not only the dimension of public welfare, but also the restoration of human nature based on humanism and the urgent need to reconcile human development activities with nature.

The United Nations designated the year 2001 as the "Year of Volunteers." The basis of the designation is that volunteers are the driving force in solving current issues of local communities, and adequate education and management of volunteers is needed to make the 21th century wholesome.

We humans should combine all our wisdom for the benefit of accomplishing the ongoing mission of constructing a global community which is peaceful, safe, and overflowing with affection.

To build a society which is warm and consists of those who have something to live for, the members of the society must have the consciousness of the community. In order to achieve this, members should be devoted to their daily lives and be considerate to their neighbors and the society with sincere interest at the same time.

The volunteer activities done by individuals or organizations are called "the third sector" in the United States.

These days the United States is maintained by three sectors. The private sector accounts for 80% of the United Sates economy, the public sector 14% and the third sector, volunteers amounts to 6%. Among them the third sector is becoming an important power in sustaining the United States as the superpower of the world.

The interdependency between government, the private sector and the volunteer sector transcends simple coexistence which is the feature of the United States.

Other advanced nations, recognizing the importance of volunteers, provide efficient systems which grasp the concept of volunteers as basic human capital.

But volunteer activities are still weak in Korea, although it has been said that Korea has stepped up to the level of an advanced nation.

The rate of Korean adults participating in volunteer activities account for a mere 14 percent, very low compared to the rate of 55 percent of American adults.

France could carry out the 1998 World Cup tournament at low cost with the help of excellent and devoted volunteers.

Many people, ranging from teenagers to senior citizens in their 70s, participated as volunteers in the 2000 Sydney Olympics to make the event an overwhelming success. As the Korean proverb goes, "The habits formed at age three stay till 80." To make volunteer activity a part of daily life, guiding participation from early childhood is essential.

Korea should develop an efficient system, operate the system in the national dimension and develop a citizen''s movement from the bottom of the social scale to become an advanced nation in volunteer activities.

The Joongang Ilbo-sponsored Korean Pioneers in Overseas NGOs project will serve as a model for volunteer activities.

The writer Michael M. Park is the director of the Korea Youth Research Institute.

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