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“Awake to the greater role of youth activism in society”
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“Awake to the greater role of youth activism in society”

Voluntary work can help a young person get ahead, however all too often the motivation seems to lie in competition for jobs rather than a spirit of true altruism, argues Zain Haider Awan, 18, a Briton of Pakistani descent.

It increasingly seems that young people are being lured into youth activism, volunteering and community development as a ‘check-box’ procedure, or as I call it: ‘stamp collecting’.

As any stamp collector will tell you, the more stamps you have, the higher your rank. Well, to me, this is contradictory. Acts of selflessness cannot be promoted via selfish mediums of personal gain and betterment.

My words are not to be confused, by no means am I saying; don’t write it on your CV. No, far from it! Employers should do more to recognise competences and value youth work, but young people should not be encouraged to sign up on the basis of adding to their ‘stamp collection’ or even starting one.

However, with the lack of engagement and poor promotion of voluntary opportunities, young people are essentially being brought into voluntary placements with the vision that they will be guaranteed a higher job prospect.

Matters turn ugly, when young people sign themselves up for voluntary work on the sole aim that it will win them a job. Consequently, an environment of ‘assistance and teamwork’ for ‘encouragement and inspiration’ dies. This environment struggles to survive as ‘support’ is replaced by ‘competition’; with the over-subscription of youth opportunities. No longer are young people being inspired into volunteering, they are doing it to remain competitive.

Now youth volunteering is not a foreign concept to me. I have been involved with over 21 youth related projects in the past three years, yes – I know what you’re thinking… that’s a lot of stamps (but this articles not about me or how cool I am). Joking aside, it’s due to my experience of implementing change, influencing policy makers and being creative that I find it to be so rewarding and so addictive.

Having said that, I have seen young people sign up to voluntary projects and placements but see no value in it. They are the ones that complain, moan and find the whole concept boring. They are the ones when challenged on why they are there, simply brush it off by saying: “It looks good on my CV”.

Take my local youth council, made up of representatives from each school which boasted about 40 recognised members at the beginning of the year – that same youth council, four meetings on, struggles to tempt six members into the chamber; even with comfy leather chairs and free hot drinks. Yes, free hot drinks.

The lack of motivation is down to young people being sold this sales pitch that these placements are a ‘must-have’ on any successful CV. The ‘sales-pitch’ advocated by youth-workers, teachers and career-advisers has become now the mantra of many ‘youth volunteers’. It has become invested within this generation as a compulsory action, and for that reason is as appealing as the current school curriculum. Young people undertake placements with the same attitude of attending school; they have no other choice if they want succeed in life.

Whilst I agree voluntary work is a vital commodity for a successful individual it will only be a success when a young person is objective, motivated and realises the potential the opportunity possesses. It is then that youth work will promote open-mindedness, it will teach one to persevere and it will also give the opportunity to further their talent.

True development will take place for young people when they awaken to the greater role of youth activism within society. It is when we, as a society, will acknowledge the true value of youth work, and smash out of an incompetent view towards competences.

Find me on Twitter @awanzain

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?

To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/commonwealthcorrespondents/

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