Volunteer for a weekend

Volunteering for a limited time is becoming increasingly popular – for instance, through the initiative Synagieren.

dpa/Frank Rumpenhorst - Synagieren

“I just have to go and save the world…” is the ironic message in a song by the Berlin singer Tim Bendzko. Slightly exaggerated, of course, but changing the world a little bit within three days is the aim of the so-called Wirkcamps that have been developed by the students’ initiative Synagieren (joint action). Synagieren is a combination of ‘synergy’ and ‘agieren’, meaning to act. That is the essence of the idea that is being spread via the Internet platform www.synagieren.de. The participants bring creativity, know-how and involvement with them to the camps. They create new, or support existing non-profit initiatives and devote themselves to themes, such as allocation of resources, the extinction of species, growing democracy, environmental protection, the world economy or health.

Changing civic engagement

The founders of the initiative thought of the idea when they asked themselves why they had not joined an organisation, although they would like to change the world in some way and do some good. The answer soon became clear. They preferred involvement outside of large organisations, and they felt happier without strict hierarchies and fixed structures. The lack of time also prevents many young people from committing themselves to voluntary work for a longer period. That was when the idea was born: to be actively involved for a limited time. This is a general trend that social scientists have observed in the area of civic engagement. Almost 1,000 volunteers have taken part in the short-term Synagieren camps so far. They say how much fun it is being actively involved together for a good cause.

How and whether each project will continue after each weekend Wirkcamp depends on the willingness and available time of the participants. Many of the initiatives are both lasting and effective. For instance, the website www.xtinct.info, which runs a T-shirt campaign to raise awareness about the decreasing biodiversity on our planet and then uses the sales proceeds to support projects for the protection of endangered species. Another workgroup compares and assesses textile industry certificates and seals at www.fair-zieht-an.synagieren.de to provide some orientation when buying eco-friendly and ethically produced fair-trade clothing. Local projects also play an important role. For example, a group in Augsburg planted the courtyard of a collective living space for refugees and created playing facilities for the children.

International Volunteer Day on 5 December 2014