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July 22, 2020 Wednesday 09:18:21 PM IST

The Noble Act of Volunteering

Photo by criss_chengck10339 for

The District Collector of Ernakulam has appealed to the people to volunteer for providing help at Covid First Level Treatment Centres with the promise to provide all health care and defensive support. They have to go on quarantine after their service ends and they would be given food and accommodation during the service period.

Kerala which witnessed two successive years of floods in 2018 and 2019 had to depend on a large core of volunteers including students to reach essential goods to relief camps and those isolated during the natural calamity.

It is not just during natural calamities, disasters or epidemic outbreaks that the world depends on volunteers to undertake major tasks.  The Macquarie University has benefited immensely from volunteer science projects the latest one being the one related to counting of whales. Wayne Reynolds, a retired diesel mechanic has been involved for the past 23 years in counting whales. Using his binoculars from dawn to dusk he takes stock of the giant species in the sea and coordinates the Cape Solander Whale Migration study, one of Australia's longest running citizen science programs. It showed that there has been a 10% growth in return of migrating humpback whales since 1997. The study was directed by marine biologist Dr Vanessa Pirotta of Macquarie Univeristy's Marine Predator Research Group.

“Whales play an important ecological role in the ocean environment, moving nutrients from one part of the ocean to the other as they travel,” according to Dr Vanessa Pirotta. Pirotta says that systematic long-term field studies to monitor wildlife are one way to understand animal population trends, and they also generate useful biological data sets that help scientists and policy and decision makers develop conservation programs.

"There’s not many long-term citizen science whale-monitoring studies," she says. “What’s important in long-term studies is consistency – which is hard to manage in citizen science programs.”

Citizen science – conducted by amateur scientists, often as a hobby – can deliver patchy results, but Pirotta says the Cape Solander study is as solid as they come. That’s mostly because one person – Wayne Reynolds – carefully trained every single new observer.

The pandemic times saw the humanitarian efforts of several people to help policemen struggling to keep people away from the streets, helping provide shelter for the street dogs and animals who were going hungry or the continued efforts by individuals to collect trash plastic bottles and other goods thrown in to our seas.
Despite the invaluable help rendered by the volunteers the value of their services never gets counted in the GDP data. The opportunity cost of their services are indeed huge.  
India has several programs at the school and college level to encourage voluntary work including the National Service Scheme (NSS) and the National Cadet Corps (NCC).
Volunteering is suggested for people who suddenly are laid off from work due to pandemic or economic crisis. Career counsellors usually suggest continuing education professional organisations and volunteering. Volunteering requires an  unpaid investment of your time, but that investment can lead directly to employment with that organisation, according to Alan Kotok, in an article in Science.

Sreekumar Raghavan

Sreekumar Raghavan is an award-winning business journalist with over two and a half decades of experience in print, magazine and online journalism. A Google-certified Digital Marketing Professional, he specialises in content development for web, digital marketing and training, media relations and related areas. He is the recipient of MP Narayana Pillai Award for Journalism in 2001 and holds a bachelors degree in Economics and Masters Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Kerala University.





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