Tremendous potential

A new employee for the Child Protection Agency's hotline? Homework assistance for migrant children? Or spring cleaning in the parish church? Those who want to do volunteer work in Germany have a wide range to choose from.

Voluntary activity in Germany has grown recently. According to the 2005 Survey of Volunteers conducted by the German Federal Ministry of Family Affairs, 36 percent or 24 million of Germans over the age of 14 are involved in long-term volunteer work. That's two percent more than five years earlier. The front-runner is sports, followed by schools/kindergartens, religion/church, and culture and music. Internationally, Germany is in the middle of the pack. In Great Britain, 48 percent of the adult population is involved in voluntary work, in the USA even 56 percent. According to the German government, the estimated 46 million volunteer hours per week correspond to a monetary benefit of 17 billion euros. "That's a huge potential that needs to be promoted, nurtured and developed," says Hans Fleisch, the federal commissioner for civil commitment. The fact that this year's ARD theme week, starting on Sunday, will focus in detail on the topic of volunteering should therefore be very welcome to him. But it's also clear that the conditions for volunteer work are changing. Younger people in particular no longer want to be tied into binding club structures to the same extent as in the past. "You don't grow into an association or a parish so automatically anymore," knows Aloys Bushuven, former spokesman for the association of Caritas volunteer centers in Germany. The trend is toward a commitment for a limited period of time. Like other organizations and local authorities, the German Caritas Association has reacted to this and founded 54 volunteer centers in the past decade – contact exchanges where helpers can be placed and advised. The 72-hour campaign of the Federation of German Catholic Youth (BDKJ), which begins on Thursday, is also responding to this development. In what is probably Germany's largest youth social campaign, around 100 young people want to participate.000 young people 2.Tackle 500 social or ecological projects. Within 72 hours, i.e. until Sunday afternoon, for example, the construction of children's playgrounds or nature trails as well as activities in old people's homes, hospitals or facilities for the homeless are planned. At the same time, there are increasing efforts to get older people more involved in volunteering. The "Voluntary Services of All Generations" program, which will be launched on 1 January, is intended to be the engine for this. January started. Addresses seniors who want to commit to at least six months of service from 8 to 20 hours per week. According to Minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU), the generation over 60 represents an enormous potential for society. However, according to studies, the level of volunteering among older people has so far been lower than among younger age groups. At the same time, experts believe that demographic change will require more civic engagement in the future. von der Leyen sees possible fields of activity in childcare, nursing or youth work. The "weltwarts" voluntary service program launched by the German government at the end of 2007 also offers new approaches to volunteering. The program supports young adults between the ages of 18 and 28 who want to participate in social, cultural, agricultural or environmental protection projects in a partner country. According to the Ministry of Development, in the first year more than 2.100 volunteers active in more than 60 countries. Up to 10.000 volunteer positions to be created each year. The German government also hopes that this will increase young people's awareness of development ies.

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