Some people become volunteers because they have experienced helping in the past, or because they have been taught to help at their family home. Others point out that they can actively spend time in this way and meet valuable people. However, all agree that by bringing aid, they not only feel incredible emotions, but something changes deep inside themselves.
300 - this is a beautiful number of volunteers that the Help.NGO foundation (formerly Global DIRT) has sent to 19 countries around the world so far.
Adam Marlatt, founder of the foundation explains its structure:- Help.NGO has over 3,000 volunteer candidates who are divided based on specialisation. Among them are those who specialise in rescue, medical assistance, drone operation, information management or satellite internet.
Desire from an early age
Volunteers come from more than a dozen countries. Determining whether someone is the right person to help in a crisis situation can be a challenge. Help.NGO works to train such people in the greatest practice, so that they are best prepared to help. The scope of the training includes the humanitarian aid system and specialised skills, i.e. mapping, rescue, medicine, and telecommunications.
Volunteers make a difference to the lives of the people they help, but also change their own.
Andrew Peter, a Help.NGO volunteer, participated in humanitarian relief efforts in the US Virgin Islands during Hurricane Irma and Marie in 2017:- The desire to help others was instilled in me by my family when I was just a little kid. I realise that I have several skills that can be useful during relief operations.
He has dedicated his professional life to working as a paramedic in the United States. In 2011, he went to Iraq to do a job as a contract paramedic for the State Department. After two years, he moved to St. John in the Virgin Islands and planned to retire.
But in 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Marie hit the Islands wreaking extreme destruction.
- Help.NGO took action and I quickly joined their ranks, ending my medical retirement at the same time, says Andrew.
We cannot remain indifferent to suffering
18-year-old Ola Kostrzewska, a volunteer of the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WOŚP - the biggest one-day fundraiser in Poland), says:
- I became a volunteer to spend my time actively.
- 2020 was an extremely hard year because of the pandemic. People who had a difficult financial situation found themselves in an even more troublesome position. I couldn't ignore this problem, so I decided to take part in the Noble Gift (Szlachetna Paczka - an action which supports families and people in difficult situations), says 24-year-old Michał Bosak, a volunteer.
- I have always wanted to help someone who struggles with tough problems in life and is not as lucky as I am. When I found out about a Caritas Team at our parish that needed support, I volunteered. At first, the tasks were simple: we had to deliver gifts to people's homes or bring the goods. Later there were more responsibilities and I could spread my wings, says Anna Bosak, who has been at Caritas for a year and a half.
"I help because someone saved my life too".
24-year-old Kamil Harastowicz has been collecting money for the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity (WOŚP) for half of his life: - In 2008 my right hand swelled up and I could not move it at all. After an initial diagnosis, I was referred to the oncology ward where, after 2 weeks, the swelling’s gone down, and I was told that fortunately it was not cancer. Some time later Jurek Owsiak announced that this time they will play for children with oncological diseases. So after my experience, I decided that I would like to become a volunteer. And so in 2009 I collected money on the streets of Gdańsk for the first time.
To this day, Kamil continues the adventure.
In April 2009, a few months after the Grand Finale, my arm swelled up again. Unfortunately, this time I was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma of the right shoulder blade, Harastowicz recalls.
My first thought was that I was raising money for my own treatment during the Grand Finale. In December 2012, after a few years of fighting, I won the battle against cancer. I saw WOŚP equipment in every hospital I visited. In 2013, less than a month after the surgery, the 21st Grand Finale Fundraiser took place. As my arm was badly swollen I could not collect money in the box by myself. However, I knew that even in such a state I had to support the action. WOŚP truly saved my life.
Volunteers agree that when helping others they not only feel incredible emotions, but something changes within themselves.
- A man truly fulfils oneself when one can give something from the heart, Michał believes. - Noble Gift (Szlachetna Paczka) is always a unique experience. I realized that with a relatively small amount of work we can help people in real need. Now I know that money spent on my whims is nothing compared to the money spent on primary wants of the neediest cases. This brings real joy, says Michał.
"Volunteering? Thanks to it I appreciate what I have".
Anna Bosak emphasises that she has met many valuable people through volunteering. – The ones who need help are those who have had things go wrong in their lives. Such people are not usually to blame, it is simply fate that has decided for them. In my opinion, helping others is about helping yourself. Now I appreciate even more all I have. I've learned that people are various and sometimes they think differently than me. Seeing their happiness gives me great satisfaction, says Anna.
Ola points out the sense of community. - When you are fundraising, everyone knows the purpose, so you can spread a smile without being embarrassed. For me, volunteering was just great fun which, by the way, did a lot of good. I recommend it to everyone, she adds.
Kamil emphasises that the most valuable thing about volunteering for him is that you can save someone's life. - I have experienced it myself. Now I want others to have this chance too, he says.