There are apps where volunteers can offer their services or where organizations can call for volunteers. There are apps that allow you to track your working hours. Or make a CV. And there are even reward apps. But one app that can do it all? No, that does not exist yet; but soon it will. At least, if it is up to Puck (14), Juul (15) and their father Ceriel from the neighbourhood “Heer”. A discussion about an app in progress: The ‘You are close to our heart’ app.
Juul, Puck and Ceriel volunteer with all their heart. For a couple of years, as a part of Serve the City Maastricht (link to previous article at TIM), for refugees and the elderly, they organize food collection days at Porta Mosana College (and from December onwards, at Sint Maartens College) and lunch during practical serving days in the neighborhood. They also prepare coffee at the living room project “Sjuif a-en” in their backyard.
A reward system
Although they are young, Puck and Juul know the obstacles to volunteering all too well. “Why don’t I go to the AH supermarket to work there and get paid? I often get asked that question,” says Juul. “This works gives me much more: a network, language skills, social experiences, fun and knowledge, what direction I want in my life, and the gratitude of the people I help. But I can understand the question. That is why we link a volunteer-rewarding system to the app. For example, volunteering for several hours will be rewarded with a movie ticket, or a discount in the local pub.”
“That part of recognition and appreciation is often forgotten, which is as important as helping people.” Ceriel adds.
More focus on the person that volunteers
The added value of the app is that the focus is on the volunteers and their time, not on just the job or the help people require. “People definitely want to help, but it should not cost too much effort. It should not be an obligation and it should be fun. Through the app, volunteers can find a place where they feel at home and where they can express their talents. It’s volunteering: you’re free to stand and go where you want to help another person.” says Ceriel.
The app also plays a hand in the plans of the new government, about which Ceriel says, “There is a social service obligation for young people. Schools can complete social internships in their own way. For example, from the first class, students have to spend one hour a week on volunteering. Second-class students go 2 hours and so up to 6 hours a week for students in their 6th year. That means a lot of additional volunteers who will be available to serve. Where can they look for work? In this app. Through the app, they can register their worked hours. Their supervisors then sign it back in the app.” Another great addition is that the app keeps track of what work you’ve done do. As Puck put it: “With the press of a button, you import that info to your resume. And that makes it really convenient.”
Nice plans, but who pays for the app? Ceriel’s reply: “This app pays for itself. It relieves volunteers, volunteer organizations, municipalities and schools from a lot of administrative hassles. Hours are registered, there is a feedback system, an insurance overview per organization, plus all hours the different organization spends on voluntary work. Thus, a municipality can easily see how it goes with the organizations in the city and respond to it. “
What distinguishes this app from initiatives like wehelpen.nl and maastrichtdoet.nl?
Puck: “It’s more accessible. A volunteer can get started way more easily. Just with one glance, the app shows you where you can do something. What the organization requires, as a matter of fact, is not that important. You can decide what you do at any time without having to commit to it in the long term. Therefore, it is more approachable. Also for an original team building day or bachelor party, you can use this app efficiently.”
“I go to a school with bilingual education. More often than not, I’m asked if I want to go abroad to learn the language or culture from another country. Why would I? During my volunteer work, I meet people from America, Germany and India. My English is improving. Plus, I also learn a lot about their country and culture.” Ceriel nods and adds, “Voluntourism has grown much more in other countries and cities. This app can contribute to this and add it to the already existing culture of volunteering in Maastricht.”
Finally, what’s in it for them?
“Nothing,” their response is unanimous.
Juul: “Dad put it very well to the alderman: “We’re here to bring something, not to get something.” He was very surprised to hear that,” he laughs. Ceriel added, “We really do it for the benefit of others and to connect. In a way, like in the old days. When real contact was very normal.” Juul nods, ” We want to make the neighborhood and Maastricht more beautiful.” Puck agrees and adds, “We want to do something good. That’s why we do this. “