In the presence of Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Jean-Marc Delizée, Belgium's federal Secretary of State for Social Affairs, and European Parliament Member Marian Harkin, the European Year of Volunteering 2011 was launched in Brussels.
A Eurobarometer study in May 2010 revealed that 3 out of 10 Europeans claim to be active in a voluntary capacity. There are many different definitions and traditions concerning volunteering. A common thread throughout these activities is that wherever people come together to help each other and support those in need, both society as a whole and the individual volunteers benefit. Through volunteering, people gain knowledge, exercise skills and extend their social networks, which can often lead to new or better employment opportunities, as well as personal and social development.
To highlight these efforts and encourage more citizens to join in, the European Commission recently kicked off the 2011 European Year of Volunteering. Vice-President Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, joined by Jean-Marc Delizée, Belgium's federal Secretary of State for Social Affairs, and European Parliament Member Marian Harkin, presented the year’s slogan: 'Volunteer! Make a difference.' "I want to pay tribute to the millions of Europeans who take the time to make our world a better place," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. "Deep within all of us lies the ability to step up and care for those in need. Volunteering strengthens our core European values: solidarity and social cohesion. As we launch the European Year of Volunteering, I want to rally support for people who make a difference. Now is the time for us to share and to give something back, for us to focus on helping the helpers!"
The Commission helps young people participate in volunteering activities. Through the European Voluntary Service, thousands of adolescents and young adults travel outside their home countries to teach, promote cultural awareness and develop important life skills. For example, volunteers at a home in Copenhagen called Verahus help the disabled residents in their daily lives. They arrange leisure-time activities with the residents, such as painting, music, games, sports and accompany them on trips.
To highlight volunteers’ work, encourage others to join in and address the challenges they face, the 2011 European Year of Volunteering has four main objectives: lowering obstacles to volunteering in the EU; empowering volunteer organisations and improve the quality of volunteering; rewarding and recognise volunteering activities and raising awareness of the value and importance of volunteering. To meet these goals, the Commission will encourage the exchange of good practices between Member States' authorities and volunteering organisations. The focus will be on training volunteers, accreditation and quality assurance, and efficient and effective match-making between potential volunteers and volunteering opportunities. The Commission will encourage new Europe-wide networking initiatives to encourage cross-border exchanges and synergies among volunteer organisations and other sectors, especially with businesses. There will be hundreds of activities and projects during the year 2011, including four thematic conferences, the very first in Budapest on Jan 8, entitled ’Recognition of Volunteering.’