Volunteers help build the nation
Many of us will still remember how South Africa made it through the dark days of apartheid and the key role Nelson Mandela played. He gave our country hope.
On July 18, as we reflect on his life and what it means to our country, we should ask ourselves: How can we as South Africans give back?
While many of us will again this year give 67 minutes to helping someone in need, more South Africans, particularly the youth, should look to volunteer a few months of their time.
Our country remains divided, with racism and hate speech often rearing its ugly head on social media and in public spaces. Adding to this, abuse of alcohol and drugs, and other destructive behaviour, continue to blight the lives of our youth.
Volunteering fosters empathy and understanding for others and cultivates self-respect and discipline. This is why government has identified volunteerism as key to social cohesion.
Youth volunteer programmes
The National Youth Development Agency, through its Youth Build Programme, has partnered with the departments of public works, human settlements and rural development to create youth volunteer programmes. These allow young people to gain critical skills and give them the opportunity to serve in their communities.
Youth spend eight to 12 months in class and on site learning the construction trade using the Youth Build model adapted from Youth Build International.
In another programme, volunteers are recruited within identified communities to build houses. On completion they are placed into training with the National Home Builders Registration Council (NHBRC) for six weeks. They are then given help to find jobs or start their own businesses using the skills they have acquired.
The Department of Science and Technology also has a volunteering programme, for young unemployed science, engineering and technology graduates. Graduates give their time for up to a year to participating organisations that collaborate with the department in its youth development programmes.
During the year these volunteers get specialised training in areas such as entrepreneurship and life skills.
Youth service programme
The number of volunteers in South Africa rose from 1.3 million in 2010 to 2.2 million in 2014, but the average annual hours worked by each volunteer fell in this period from 321 to 277 hours, according to Statistics South Africa's 2014 Volunteer Activity Survey.
This decline is concerning, but the government is looking to strengthen volunteering.
This year the Presidency is expected to submit the revised National Youth Service Programme Framework to Cabinet for approval.
In addition, the National Youth Service Unit is busy setting up a mentoring programme to help civil society groups run by young people to function effectively and become self-sustaining.
These measures, we hope, will see volunteering grow in strides and play a greater role in the development of our country.
Phumla Williams GCIS Acting Director-General