Hala El-Helou is the Project Manager of the National Volunteer Service Program at the Ministry of Social Affairs in Beirut, Lebanon.
Being a volunteer in Lebanon is not an easy task. People tend to encourage us superficially but they actually do not understand the reason why we would spend our time doing something for free when we can be working on something more profitable - at least to help with our summer expenses or university tuition.
It is also pretty hard to bring in or recruit volunteers! I have heard recruiting for such an effort was much easier in the past when my parents were my age. People had fewer distractions and were more committed to the concept of helping each other.
Nonetheless, there are volunteers in Lebanon - maybe not many - but there are a considerable number of people who are encouraging community service. Unfortunately, for the government, these people are mostly from the civil society and local communities. There is no official umbrella given to the issue of volunteering. There are volunteering activities organized by the Ministry of Social affairs (MOSA) but they are definitely not enough. Before I came to MOSA, I had not heard about this ministry or its line of work. I am certain that many other youth my age, have still not heard about it or of any other volunteering opportunities in Lebanon. Unfortunately, the culture of community service is not a widespread concept and has not been nurtured in Lebanon.
Thus, there is a need to find a way to help people regain this culture of giving and make community service a part of their everyday life. This is where the idea of the National Volunteer Service Program stemmed from. It started with a simple vision: the need to strengthen national policies on the concept of volunteering.
We really hope this project will set the framework of volunteering in Lebanon and introduce the concept of “national volunteers,” serving their country at a social level. Our aim is also to increase the number of individuals in Lebanon willing to serve in communities outside of their own, working with people they may not know or normally blend with. This is the form of cross-cultural communication that we are looking to establish in a region torn apart by conflicts. Helping active youth to serve their country, mainly in the social field.
In a country marred by political instability and insecurity we can only wait and hope for the notion of volunteering to climb up the ladder of people’s priorities - for the youth themselves and for our future government.
National Volunteer Service Program (NVSP) is a new program at the Ministry of Social Affairs of Lebanon which aims at increasing youth civic engagement. The Program works on expanding youth volunteerism, particularly in communities outside of the volunteers’ own and improving the employability of youth through skills development.