The Potentiality of Student Volunteerism

Suppose you are a student. What do you think are activities you want to do and can only do during school days? Many people would mention volunteerism when asked one of examples of student activities apart from club activities which they can participate only during their school days. There are many student volunteer organisations at schools and universities as my friends and I belong to. Looking at their ambitious goals and their honest attitudes towards both domestic and international issues, it seems that student volunteerism is full of potentiality while there are some skeptical people who consider these student volunteerism is only motivated by self-complacency, compulsion of conscience, or even just another advantage for job interview. However, are they telling the truth? There should be other interpretation for those who truly care for the poor, oppressed and starving. Student volunteerism is the starting line of, and one of the ways of being committed to contribute their support for significant issues which have to be solved.

In fact, social contribution carried by students has left many splendid achievements. The headquarters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), an organisation which I belong to as a vice-representative of the Japanese branch, is located in California, the United States. This student organisation accomplished educational boycott against Israel at University of California Barkley Collage. Besides, there are various student organisations at my university which specialises supports for Cambodia, Bangladesh, Mozambique, and so on which actually help the people there by building schools, digging wells, and educating children. These are good examples of the fact that you could change a small part of the world utilizing vitality and abundant time due to youth.

However, it is also true that student volunteerism is confronted by high walls which cannot be surmounted with any trouble. The cases mentioned above were finally achieved because involved students paid incredible and continuous efforts to accomplish the lofty goals, or the barriers were relatively easy to get over; in short, it basically is not an apple-pie thing to change the world. Reflecting what hinders student volunteerism from achieving their goals, there are two reasons why student volunteer works usually cannot have a significant effect on the issue—one is the weak motives due to inarticulate triggers, another is the lacks of continuation after their graduation from schools.

To begin with, quite a few students join social contribution movements just because they think “hey, I’ve become a student. Let’s do something exclusive to students.” It is obvious that this kind of motive will not last in the long term or inspire students strongly. Also, it is difficult for students who live in apparent peaceful, well-supplied and free countries such as Japan to become aware of conflict issues abroad; many of them begin to participate in volunteerism with somewhat frivolous awareness and eventually give up. Even if they were powerfully motivated at first, their motives sometimes die down and make them think “well, at least I belong to volunteer organisation.”

Secondly, as mentioned in the beginning, many people consider volunteerism as something students do. In other words, they do not define volunteerism like a daily thing after they graduate schools or universities. Once ex-students get jobs, they tend to forget the first aim they drew during their school days and eventually they start to only concentrate on the something to do on their desk. Social issues justly cannot be solved in a few years while they work for volunteerism; they definitely have to work on the issues for decades, at least five years if they really seek the solution.

Since student volunteerism can have a significant effect in the world, it is worth students’ effort and time although it is not always done that they should have strong motives and inadequate continuity. In so far as students regard volunteer activity as something only for students, its possibility will be extremely limited. To break through the limitation, students have to participate in volunteer activity with concrete goals; not “for now,” but “from now on.”

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