Do Volunteers Have Rights?

Bandar Alhamdan - Al Jawf Track
This article is written by a Youth Voice program winner. The Youth Voice Program is an enriching dialogue program that aims to engage young people from all over the Kingdom in a number of seminars, discussion meetings and trainings. It focuses mainly on critical thinking and persuasive communication skills.

Saudi society in general and its youth in particular are distinguished by their keenness on volunteer work in all its forms and fields. Volunteer work has become one of the most important pillars in sustainable development. It contributes to solving crises that may arise in the community, supports the active volunteer teams of government institutions during the Hajj and Umrah seasons, and participates in organizing and managing various events, such as conferences, book fairs and others.


A volunteer does not work for material gain. On the contrary, a volunteer is dedicated and devoted through their effort and time, believing in their responsibilities towards their country and society. However, this does not prevent them from obtaining some incentives and honors that may motivate and assist them to continue volunteering. It is the duty of the community to support volunteers, and seek to provide incentives and privileges to them, so that the culture of volunteering can thrive in the community.


Through my personal experience and observation, I found some entities that would exploit volunteers. This is demonstrated by investing their giving, efforts and free work in activities that yield profit and returns for the organizers, while pressing them with long working hours under unhealthy conditions, which threatens volunteer work and exposes it to many challenges.


To restore trust in volunteer work and improve its image, volunteers must work within official entities, and access news and announcements of volunteer work from reliable official websites, not through social media, which may hide the identity of the people and entities to which they belong, in order to ensure the rights of the volunteer. The volunteer shall be keen to request a certificate for their volunteer work, and officials shall confront and stop all those who exploit volunteer work, whether individuals or organizations. This way, your rights as a volunteer will be protected, trust in volunteering will gradually return, and society will return to what it was used to.


Here are some volunteer rights: to work in a safe and healthy environment, justice in selection and equal opportunities, obtaining real and accurate information about civil society institutions and volunteer work laws, adherence to the National Volunteer Charter, not performing the job of a paid employee, obtaining a clear description of the volunteer’s job and hours, which defines its type and specialization, as well as maintaining the confidentiality of the volunteer’s personal information and privacy. The tasks assigned to the volunteer must also be compatible with their age and capabilities, and the acceptance request must be signed by the parents of volunteers under the age of 18. Priority is given to volunteers who already work in the same organization.


Since the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development announced the “One Million Volunteers Campaign,” I call on it to work on implementing clear regulations and legislation to create a fair and attractive environment and training programs for volunteers; to provide incentives such as giving certain advantages to those who exceed certain volunteering hours, adopting a point system that prioritize excellent volunteers in the admission to universities and employment; dropping traffic violations and service fees, giving them discounts on public transportation and stores, and other aspects of support and facilitation. Smart and successful volunteering is an essential contribution to the development of the nation and community service, and most importantly, it is a way to invest otherwise wasted energy and time. Therefore, it must be given serious attention and organization.


Recently, we have noticed a growing interest of powerful and official entities concerned with volunteer work. Strict laws have been enacted to protect volunteers and owners of volunteer organizations. I feel sorry to say that a large part of the reason for the exploitation of volunteers is the volunteers themselves. The ignorance of volunteers, their enthusiasm for volunteer work and the obligation in some universities and schools for students to volunteer, have all helped some profit organizations to work in secret and suck volunteers in to achieve more profit and goals at the expense of volunteers without giving back or gratitude. Among the authorities that support and sponsor volunteer work is the Ministry of Human Resources, which in turn launched a Saudi incubator for volunteer work that provides a safe environment that serves and regulates the relationship between agencies that provide volunteer opportunities and volunteers in the Kingdom. Through the National Volunteer Portal, you can volunteer in the place, time and field that suits your experiences and skills. The portal also allows the documentation of your work hours and the issuance of your volunteer certificates.


The National Volunteer Award is also an effective tool to motivate and inspire male and female volunteers in various societal sectors. The award aims mainly to highlight and honor various volunteer efforts, disseminate, and consolidate volunteer philosophy among community members, and contribute to building a positive mental image of the Saudi society centered around the values of giving and offering.


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