Where are the Helpers?

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK Fifteen years after the country’s independence, Namibians still lack the culture of volunteerism. Lending a helping hand to make a difference in the lives of others is the spirit with which volunteers provide assistance to the vulnerable and destitute of society. The culture of volun-teerism by definition looks at what an individual can do for the betterment of his or her countrymen, ultimately contributing to a better society. However, in Namibia many people are not willing to work for charity, unless there is some kind of incentive or salary. Yet in this era where the scourge of the HIV/Aids pandemic has reached alarming proportions, the numbers of orphans and vulnerable children are rising, coupled with widespread poverty, it is pertinent for more Namibians to embrace the culture of volunteerism. Yesterday, December 05, Namibia joined the rest of the world in commemorating International Volunteers Day. The day, which was designated by the United Nations in 1985, is geared towards recognising the value of voluntary service and the contribution of volunteers to alleviating suffering around the world. Volunteers give their time and service, mostly free of charge or for an incentive, to serve others and improve the quality of life of vulnerable people. Secretary General of the Namibia Red Cross Society Razia Essack-Kauaria said in light of poverty, HIV/Aids and orphans and vulnerable children, Namibians still need to do more by stretching a helping hand, especially to those in need. Kauaria noted that it was mainly the poor people who volunteered themselves, whilst those in middle and high income groups would most of the time shy away. “The lower income group makes up the majority of volunteers where they give over and above of what they can to others, while the middle and higher income group is extremely less in their contributions,” she said. Such a trend has become apparent due to the socio-economic conditions of the country, where the middle and higher class have less time as they focus more on building their careers. Director of Katutura Community Radio Natasha Tibinyane said people could not be expected to work for nothing nowadays. With 17 young volunteers at the radio station, most of them ended up as volunteers for the love of the job, she said. “The ones that are there, they want to be volunteers and many of them are unemployed youths who chose not to lie idle around home and opted to keep themselves busy with something they love,” explained Tibinyane. “Some of the volunteers come to work hungry, how can they help others or do their work,” she asked, however, adding that an allowance for transport and food amounting to N$800 per month is provided to the volunteers at the radio station. The allowance is therefore an incentive merely given to make the job easier for the volunteer. As a part of the largest humanitarian and volunteer-based organisation in the world, the Namibia Red Cross Society has 3 500 volunteers, which contributes to the 97 million volunteers of the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement. “Every day, our community-based volunteers protect dignity and carry community mobilisation activities in water and sanitation, first aid and HIV-related fields,” said Kauaria. The culture of volun-teerism should not only be seen as giving something to society, but it could also be a way of availing time for others. In view of this, people in top leadership positions are strongly encouraged to avail their time or resources for the sake of the disadvantaged. Kauaria said the same spirit with which society, government and the private sector responded to building the railway line in the north could be extended to volunteerism.