Voluntary work is based on human interaction. But what happens, when that crucial factor is taken away? What is the current state of volunteering in the pandemic world?



The Core of Non-Profit Motion

Let’s make it crystal clear - the pandemic is not over and it’s not letting volunteers spread all over the world to carry on in a way that they used to. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, the whole world was shaken up. We had to give up our ways of life, change routines, take care of our beloved ones and ourselves. We needed to adapt fast to the new reality. In fact, the joint experience of the pandemic created some room for a sense of belonging to a community and was a call to action. To whom? To volunteers, of course. 

In every culture, the act of volunteering is understood differently. What should come as no surprise, each individual that decides on volunteering has their reasons for doing so. A researcher, Paul Dekker [1] defined the scope of volunteering services, within the European context, divided into three categories:

  • volunteering as a gift to society
  • active membership
  • civic engagement.


Erasmus Student Network as a Leading Example

It’s volunteers who shape the ESN as a non-profit organisation. Thus, ESN advocates for bringing international students and local communities together, creating space for solidarityintercultural dialogue and civic engagement. Even though the pandemic hit us hard as well, we haven’t stopped chasing our values and fulfilling the mission of "Enriching the society through international students". 

The truth is that we already knew the online part of voluntary initiatives before. As for being present in 40 countries, ESN’s being in the virtual network is inevitable. From preparing webinars for the volunteers, promoting the Erasmus+ programme to speaking up on matters regarding inclusion, education or civic engagement - we’re always in play!

Students helping students - one of the mottos of ours, a drive to our engagement in mobility, a mantra repeated whenever there is an occasion for that. By creating virtual opportunities, ESN has an impact on a global scale.


Where Are We Now?

Counting back to 2020, much has changed since then. Yet, one stays the same: the fact that as a Network we're powerful. Dealing with the pandemic when volunteering is an ongoing lesson that also cultivates a volunteer's identity. 

We proved that despite challenging times, volunteers commit themselves and deliver help when it is needed. For that, events such as “Stay at Home with ESN Poland” or Health & Well-Being week were established. It appeared that we could turn gravy days into hope and our strength. 


We’re Stronger Together

In the face of the current situation, in the peace of small steps, we are moving some of our activities offline, to rebuild a sense of integration and show international students that we're here for them. ESN is doing well - because its volunteers stay true to its mission. Even during the crisis - we respond, take action and provide support to the international students. I believe that the idea of volunteering will always be bright because it generates values that become part of us and make the world a better place. It’s enriching you as a person, and so you do something magical by giving to others - I assure you that it comes back to you!



photo by Erasmus Student Network International

Since 1985 the International Volunteer Day has been celebrated to emphasise the power and potential of voluntary work. For that reason, we wish every volunteer and future volunteer-to-be not to be afraid of speaking up and making a change.


Written by: Paulina Bednarek, the PR Committee of ESN Poland

[1] Dekker, P. (2019). From pillarized active membership to populist active citizenship: The Dutch do democracy. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 30(1), 74–85.