Volunteers’ Voices 3/2013: active citizenship

Editorial: Dear Fellow Citizens,

the theme of this issue of Volunteers’ Voices is active citizenship. Don’t worry: you’re not in danger of finding yourself in the midst of political speeches or bureaucratic jargon. Instead of that, the articles will deal with the smaller and bigger actions and thoughts the complex concept “active citizenship” compasses.

While reading the magazine you may as well forget about the kind of ”citizenship” that you’re routinely asked to fill out on official documents. What we’re dealing with here is an union of actions and emotions, and to identify them a passport isn’t required. An active citizen can be identified simply by the way he feels part of the community and acts for the common good.

Why, then, make a big deal out of it? One good reason is that active citizenship deserves acknowledgment. A great part of the activities easily remain invisible, perhaps not surprisingly considering that it is words that serve as the essential tool and what is achieved is often difficult to measure. Making these activities visible works like fuel for the people in charge of them: with the support of it they’ll regain the energy for participating, commenting, discussing and taking action.

Citizenship rarely becomes active if there’s a lack of belief in one’s possibility to make a difference. This is where volunteering abroad steps in. Every year in ICYE Finland we get to hear stories of how being a volunteer has given someone the spark for becoming active after the volunteering period. But how does it actually happen – how does a year abroad manage to build trust in the significance of one’s own role as a member of the society?

The stories are as many as the volunteers. In mine, small actions and big insights occur. When I left to Bolivia as a volunteer three years ago, I didn’t expect to save the world, but I was hoping to make some kind of contribution. Six months in a local NGO flew by, but it was hard to see any significant marks left by my work. However, the time in Bolivia left its mark on me. My eyes learnt to see the action taken by perfectly ordinary people, all the tiny steps to change the world around them. The climax of my story was grasping that active citizenship is above all a team sport. In addition to this I also gained an attitude that gives more space to solutions than problems, and courage to use my own voice.

During this summer I’ve been listening to stories told from yet a different perspective. I’ve visited ICYE Finland’s hosting projects where people working alongside volunteers have shared their stories between tears and laughter. A thing in common for all these stories is that the thoughts spoken aloud and the simple being present have often had a bigger influence than any of the volunteers would even imagine. A volunteer at the workplace equals an extra pair of hands, but he or she also leaves marks that can turn into seeds for big insights.

Introducing new points of view can help to see one’s own working environment in a different light and also to ask the important “why” questions. Just as important is to transform good ideas into action: courage is contagious!

Hanna Rajala
Board Member of ICYE Finland

Hanna Rajala (in the photo left)
Board Member of ICYE Finland

In the issue

2 Pääkirjoitus: Kansalaiset
5 Kutsu Maailmanvaihdon vuosikokoukseen
6 Ajankohtaista Maailmanvaihdossa
Teema: Aktiivinen kansalaisuus / Theme: Active Citizenship
– 8 Yhteiskunnalista aktiivisuutta Suomessa ja maailmalla
– 12 Aktiivista kansalaisuutta aktivoimassa
– 14 Kansainvälisestä kokemuksesta kipinä aktiiviseen kansalaisuuteen
– 18 Aktiivinen kansalaisuus on vastuunkantoa
20 ICYE Around the World: Excited Atmosphere in Ghana
22 Blogikuulumisia kolmelta mantereelta
24 Lasten ja nuorten suojelun kehittämistä Etelä-Koreassa
26 Tulovalmennuksessa Meksiko leikkien tutuksi
28 Tule mukaan toimintaan
29 Kolumni: Toisenlainen maailma
30 Lehden toimituskunta
31 Tapahtumakalenteri