Volunteerism upswings in Mongolia

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The concept of volunteerism has always been around for a long time worldwide, especially in western countries. In particular, the origin of volunteerism is dated back to the 12th century in the UK where volunteers built over 500 hospitals at the time. In the past, the concept was mainly connected to religion and religious institutions and military services. In the present, however, volunteerism has become a concept independent from military service and religious philosophy and is helping millions of people in need across the world. As of today, 970 million volunteers are actively working to improve the society as much as they can. 

As for Mongolia, volunteerism is quite new. In fact, the beginning of volunteerism in Mongolia can be traced back to 1939 when the Mongolian Red Cross Society was established. The International Red Cross Society has approximately over 97 million members and staff around the world and 90 percent of them are said to be volunteers. The Mongolian Red Cross Society is reported to have over 249,000 staff and volunteers. 

In modern world, volunteerism is one of the key elements for societal improvement and human development.

As the majority of the public isn’t wellinformed about volunteering, they often think that getting groups of students to clean streets or giving out hot tea to street cleaners as volunteer work. We can’t blame these people for their lack of knowledge and all we need to do is spread awareness about the benefits of volunteering to society and volunteers themselves. 

In simple terms, volunteer works can erupt changes in the society bigger than we imagine. Depending on the number of volunteers, its impact and potential can be massive. Volunteer works can cover many social and environmental issues. Children, poor families, refugees, orphans, elders, people living with autism and disabilities always need a hand to keep their life on track. The most important thing about volunteerism is that it and that can put things into practice with less money but better quality faster than governmental organizations. The problem is the government hardly ever allows volunteers to take on major projects although it tends to carry them out slowpaced with high budget and low quality. 

Experts pointed out that the government shouldn’t have held the recent fundraising event. During the COVID-19 lockdown earlier this year, the government held a TV show to raise funds to buy ventilators. Not to mention it’s the government’s job to buy necessary equipment to protect its people from deadly diseases, decision-makers brought famous actors for the fundraising event to attract more people. The most ridiculous thing about this event was that it announced a lottery among people who donated more than 15,000 MNT. These people received unique serial numbers that gave them a chance to win a brand-new car. The Mongolian government is infamous for doing things without understanding the true philosophy behind it. This fundraiser demonstrated that government officials don’t understand the true meaning of goodwill and donation. People are supposed to donate without seeking anything in return. But the government put a prize on it and turned it into a lottery. The intention of donating money for good cause must be based on pure righteous intention, not some kind of profit from it. There are posts on social media that promise “rewards“ in return for donating money to help children with chronic diseases and they often “thank” an official for starting the fundraiser. This is outrageous and if it becomes the norm in Mongolia, it wouldn’t be surprising if people ask what the prize is for donating money or other items. On top of that, this kind of careless actions steals attention from the NGOs that are actually doing things out of goodwill. 

For example, there’s Lantuun Dokhio NGO. Initiated and established by Ch.Ganjavkhlan, Lantuun Dokhio has carried out several projects such as Id Shidiin Oron, Lantuun Khuu and Ger Nomyn San, which are focused on protecting and improving the environment of children in need. 

There are many well-known Mongolian people who are dedicating their time and skills for goodwill too, including doctor B.Boldsaikhan. He started Zurkh Martakhgui Project to save children with heart diseases and the project basically led to the introduction of children’s heart surgery in Mongolia. Actress G.Undarmaa started Trust Chamber NGO in 2013 and held five projects to improve environment of hospitals in provinces. There are many more celebrities, public figures, and ordinary people who are doing real volunteer and charity work in Mongolia. 

According to statistics, 25.1 percent of adults in the USA was actively volunteering in 2017. One hour of volunteer works is equivalent to 25.43 USD in monetary work and American volunteers completed works worth 8.8 billion USD that year. The USA has policies that support volunteerism. People are entitled to tax reliefs and discounts based on the amount of volunteer work they do. This way, the US government encourages people to volunteer and improve the society. Volunteers themselves enjoy doing this kind of work. Volunteerism needs to flourish further and the government needs to support it.

A Mongolian active volunteer claimed, “Some people volunteer to feed their ego and appear to be a good person. It’s one thing to spread awareness about volunteerism, but another to promote themselves and seek recognition for volunteering.”

He says one of the benefits of volunteerism is to feel useful to others and assert the meaningfulness of one’s life. However, excessive recognition pursuit is considered the wrong intention for volunteerism as it basically is demanding “profit” for something done out of goodwill. 

There are many more benefits of volunteering. Volunteering can have positive impact on physical and mental health. It can provide a healthy boost to one’s self-confidence, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. When you volunteer, you are doing good for others and the community, which provides a natural sense of accomplishment. Your role as a volunteer can also give you a sense of pride and identity. And the better you feel about yourself, the more likely you are to have a positive view of your life and future goals. It also helps people prevent and overcome depression. A key risk factor for depression is social isolation. Volunteering keeps you in regular contact with others and helps you develop a solid support system, which in turn protects you against stress and depression when you’re going through challenging times. 

Volunteering is beneficial especially to elderly people. Studies have found that those who volunteer have a lower mortality rate than those who do not, even when considering factors like the health of the participants. Volunteering has also been proven to indicate lower risks of chronic pain and cardiovascular disease. 

One of the better-known benefits of volunteering is its impact on the community. Unpaid volunteers are often the glue that holds a community together. Volunteering allows people to connect with their community and other communities. Even helping out with the smallest tasks can make a real difference to the lives of people, animals, and organizations in need. Dedicating your time as a volunteer helps you make new friends, expand your network, and boost your social skills, says a volunteer. 

You don’t need to be rich or famous to volunteer. You can help people in need with your time, talent and knowledge and it can make quite a big difference in people’s lives and society as mentioned before. According to local research, there are many Mongolians who are willing to try volunteering. However, they don’t know who to approach or where to go. You can organize volunteer work with your community, family, friends and even strangers. Also, there is a website (www.iVolunteer.mn) which connects people who are willing to volunteer with individuals and organizations that need volunteers. The website is non-profit and as of September 9, it showed 21 volunteering opportunities and had 692 member volunteers and 23 registered organizations. 

Young people often complains about having nothing to do in Ulaanbaatar in their leisure time. Volunteering can save these people from boredom while allowing them to contribute to societal improvements. It’s a win-win for everybody.

Khantushig B