Darwin’s theory has taught us throughout history that evolution depends on the law of the fittest. However, there are many authors and biologists who discuss this theory: survival does not depend on the strongest, but on cooperation between equals.
The theory of cooperation as a key element for evolution has been gaining adherents: the idea that human beings (and other species) are not instinctively selfish, but rather seek the collective good.
It is within this framework that I always visualize volunteer projects. The reasons for starting a local volunteering can be many: from ‘I want to help’, or ‘I want to share my knowledge and experience’, or even ‘it gives me credits for university ’. Whatever the reason, the point is that you have two elements: your time, and your desire to collaborate actively in participating in social projects, and you decide to do it. And this is where you realize, in the first person, that solidarity, cooperation, community… Is reciprocal. Everything you give, you receive.
And, on many occasions, it is all that you receive that makes it so attractive to participate voluntarily in different projects. Talking about competences that you acquire during volunteering could take us an entire afternoon, and we would have to analyze it in parts. The specific competences will depend on the activity in which you are participating (collaborating in a house is not the same as helping to design a web page!).
The transversal ones may also vary, but there will be common ones: empathy, patience, ability to take responsibility, working as a team, knowing your limits. These are some of the things you learn by participating in volunteer activities.
However, I want to emphasize what I personally consider one of the greatest lessons when you become a volunteer. Anyone who knows me knows that I always speak wonders of volunteering, and in fact, I try to convince anyone who wants to listen to me. Volunteering is time. It is taking time that you could invest in anything else, and you decided to spend it altruistically in improving a community – your community.
This is for me the greatest competence you acquire during this time.
You test the theory of evolution through cooperation, and you do it actively. You create a bond, you create precedents, and you demonstrate that your environment not only matters to you, but that you also want to do something about it. It is the time when the imperfections of society and the system become a common responsibility, and you take action.
The best and changes do not come with great actions and great words. They come by spending time. They come with common concern. And they come with the idea that the more we collaborate, the more possibilities we have to grow, evolve and survive.