13.08.2013 - News

Your time: a valued donation

It is estimated that nearly 40% of the Swiss population is involved in volunteer activities. According to the 2010 data of the Federal Statistical Office , this is person who is involved in an organized framework (association, organization or institution) is usually between 40 and 54 years of age, has received further education, lives as a couple with children and is professionally active. More than just having the available time, this person is characterized by good social integration, personal commitment and useful skills for volunteer activities. Giving his/her time is not necessarily done in a formal way, within an association or an organization. Helping neighbours, looking after children or caring for an invalid also belong in the category of volunteer work. In this case, there is no typical profile, although young retirees are the most active.

A volunteer donates an average of 13 hours of his/her free time each month. Pleasure comes at the top of the reasons mentioned, followed by the need to get things changed, the chance of making new acquaintances and the wish to help others.

Terre des hommes’ volunteers

Tdh is fortunate to benefit from the support of a large number of volunteers. Our Foundation numbers over 1,700 of them, organized in some 36 regional groups from the three language regions. The job of these groups is to inform the general public and to heighten its awareness about the situation of children, to broadcast and represent the mission of Tdh, to raise funds to support its projects and so contribute to the autonomy of our Foundation. Their activities are focussed on supporting national and regional events, as well as running local actions – ranging from the sale of bread and cakes to events for children. The local actions are organized independently by the volunteer working groups (WG), who are left free to use their own initiative. The programme for surgical treatment is also given support by the volunteer escorts and mentors who transport and accompany the children during their stay in Switzerland. Professional photographers as well give their time to make photo reports in the field. And finally, some of the essential tasks of our daily work, such as the translation of documents, are also done by volunteers.

Women are in the majority in these groups, in particular working mothers of families. In the committees responsible for coordinating the activities, the ages vary between 40 and 70. As to the 20 to 40 year-olds, there are many of them involved in selected actions such as the annual sale of ‘Oranges – for children’s health’.

Children are heavily involved in our actions. For the Children’s Rights Day, on November 20th, we organize one of our main events in Switzerland. On this occasion, thousands of children voluntarily take part in an action to heighten awareness, during which they can learn more about Child Rights and experience themselves how it is to work on the streets (shoe-shining, wind-screen washing) like so many poor and exploited children in the world. This Day, in addition to fundraising for the fight against child exploitation, has a pedagogic purpose for the children taking part and for the general public. In 2012, more than 4,300 youngsters joined in these efforts.

These events give Tdh high visibility in Switzerland and reinforce the proximity to the public to which our Foundation attaches great importance. In this way our volunteers play the role of ambassadors by going out to meet the public. They are the faces of Terre des hommes.
Let us remember that our volunteers are in no way reimbursed. Each person you may see behind a stall or at another Tdh event is freely offering his/her time to support our Foundation and to defend its values.

What some volunteers say

“Personally, I have a satisfying life. I can study what I want and do the job I like. And so it seems logical for me to give my time to contribute to helping human beings who have not had the same luck as I. […] It is a citizen’s duty to his neighbour.” Guillaume Chauvin, a young volunteer in the Fribourg WG, explains his commitment in this way. He helps to organize various actions and events, like the sale of oranges. His responsibilities range from managing the stalls to the recruiting of new volunteers.

For Maryse Ducret, with Tdh for over 10 years, the wish to be involved was born of her reaction to the distress of children shown in the media: “I have always been deeply shocked and saddened by the reports of cold, malnourished children in the camps. Once I had some time to spare, I made it available to Terre des hommes, which seemed to me to be the best Swiss foundation for child relief.” As President of the Nyon WG, she now spends a lot of time on the group’s activities and takes part in all the events. “What I like to know is that we can be useful in easing the children’s misery. What pushes me on, if I sometimes feel like throwing in my hand, is quite simply an account by a volunteer who came back from a visit in the field and who told us about the desperate needs of all children, in all countries.”

Markus Madoerin, a volunteer in the Zug WG, was particularly attracted by the wide variety of tasks and by the freedom he was given to put his own ideas into practice. After having organized the ‘March of Hope’, he is now responsible for the Day of Child Rights in his region. Well aware of the fight against child exploitation, he finds Tdh’s activities ideal for being committed to this cause.

To Maryse, Guillaume and Markus, as well as all the other volunteers who organize and support our activities, we want to express our warmest thanks. Whether you are a newcomer or a veteran – some of our volunteers have been faithful for over 30 years – you all contribute to making Terre des hommes the largest organization for child relief in Switzerland.

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