With proper planning, young volunteers can make a real difference

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 12:18am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 September, 2016, 7:00pm

I refer to the article, “Why Hong Kong students’ volunteering may do more harm than good” (August 11) and subsequent comments from your correspondents through these columns and online.

The Agency for Volunteer Service (AVS) believes that volunteerism is a driving force for building a civil society and a caring community. We agree that, sometimes, good intentions may have negative outcomes if the understanding of volunteerism is unclear and action is taken without good preparation and support. Proper volunteer management involves needs assessment, good programme planning, adequate training and support to volunteers in order to achieve the expected outcome.

AVS has drawn up the Hong Kong Volunteer Charter, which stipulates the essence and values of volunteerism, benchmarks volunteer practices and sets out the service environment for volunteering. It serves as a guide to volunteers and volunteer managers as well as organisations which take on volunteers.

Volunteering enhances personal development, in particular for young people. Take our “4C (Confidence, Caring, Commitment and Courage) Youth Volunteer Leadership Programme” as an example. We train secondary students to conduct a needs assessment and make volunteer action plans before starting their voluntary work. With the support of volunteer mentors, the students mobilise their fellow schoolmates to volunteer.

Regarding students volunteering overseas, AVS, for example, runs the United Nations Volunteers (UNV)-Hong Kong Universities Volunteer Programme. This is done with the cooperation of the UNV and is supported by the Home Affairs Bureau. Undergraduates from eight local universities are selected to join the programme. It includes a six-month volunteer assignment in UN field units or agencies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the UN Population Fund and the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The students have five days of pre-departure training, on-site mentoring, guidance and supervision by the host agency, as well as a debriefing on completion of the assignment.

Volunteering makes a positive difference to people’s lives. By providing a platform for citizens from all walks of life to volunteer, AVS offers diversified service opportunities and training to equip volunteers with the knowledge, skills and attitude for quality service.

Those interested in volunteering and organisations in need of volunteers are welcome to contact us at 2527 3825, in addition to visiting our website (www.avs.org.hk).

Flora Chung, chief executive officer, Agency for Volunteer Service