Our main objective is to promote a fairer, more peaceful and cohesive society by raising awareness among the youth and by involving them in international volunteering and solidarity projects. We seek to encourage volunteers to be active players in the society they live in.
We want to help them to become citizens of the world who are responsible as well as ethically and socially aware. Being a volunteer does not only mean being involved in volunteering projects abroad, it also consists in contributing in a sustainable way to the development of society and promoting solidarity as well as mutual assistance here and abroad.
Our second objective is to encourage the youths to know more about intercultural relationships and to participate actively as citizens of the world through community-based international volunteering projects. We try to raise awareness among the volunteers of the numerous challenges related to globalisation as well as of the fact that solidarity action and association sector are relevant for the development of local communities as they encourage civic, responsible, active, critical and socially aware behaviours. We try to enable the volunteers to ask themselves questions like “what can we learn from these people about the way they are, about their culture, organisation, country?” “What do I really know about my own culture?” “What would I think if people from these countries would judge mine using the same words we use to speak about theirs?”
We endeavour to develop a vision of volunteer work we define as “a non-commercial, self-managed action, based on altruism and respectful of others”. Eventually, this action should be fair and cohesive with other organisations from Southern countries. We are opposed to any forms of volunteer work exploitation for commercial purposes.
We also aim to make sure that our projects are accessible to as many youth as possible even young people facing difficult situations, regardless of their financial resources. Volunteering is one of the driving force of the association sector, a pillar of democracy which favours social diversity, life in a community as well as human development here and abroad. For all these reasons, we reckon that volunteering projects should be accessible to everybody, regardless of one’s financial situation for instance. According to our principles, providing to everybody an access to volunteering projects amounts to provide an access to an important democratic and cultural tool.
This is the reason why no specific skill is required to be a part of our projects in Belgium or worldwide. Motivation is the main selection criterion. If the volunteer ignores something, he or she will learn it during his/her project thanks to the help of the receiving organisation and other volunteers. This learning process occurring throughout the project is rewarding for each of our volunteers. Asking questions or ignoring something is not a problem, on the contrary, our volunteers have the opportunity to learn more and more.
In spite of this, our team noticed that currently, the vast majority of the volunteers come from a relatively comfortable social background and are almost all studying at university. Thus, it is important to note that some young people are excluded from opportunities such as volunteering or international exchanges because they do not have sufficient financial resources, they have a limited access to information or they do not speak English.
However, we think that volunteering projects can be very useful for everybody. Therefore, we pay further attention to a “specific” audience, in other words, young people facing difficulties who often need a tailored professional support or approach. Thus, we supervise youths who are living in public institutions for youth protection (IPPJ) as well as homeless young people and we provide them with tailored information and a financial support. As we are convinced that volunteer work and the association sector are such an important base for life learning process, we try our best to include the world citizens of tomorrow into it.
The SVI is a youth and volunteering organisation promoting participatory democracy. However, as an organisation striving to promote a democratic society, we believe that it is important to do it firstly by living according to these values on the basis of a daily participatory and inclusive management practice. We do not only mean enabling every member to speak freely or to set up activities but rather to enable every volunteer to control and to influence the decision-making process within the framework of the organisation.
We believe that participating in volunteering projects is not an objective in itself, it is a way towards a more personal and long-term commitment. Volunteer action is the beginning of the path toward a lifelong commitment as well as a way to become aware of the realities of the world and to participate in establishing fairer and more cohesive relationships in your own way. Being involved in a learning process by participating in the organisation’s management or during an international work camp means acting concretely on your own environment. Besides, it also encompasses getting an outside look on your own culture, developing your observation and adaptation skills, analysing situations you experienced, organising your ideas, developing your critical mind and the way you express it, sharing your knowledge and experience. Thus, volunteering is a way to teach the volunteers how to use some tools that will enable them to get involved in citizens’ initiatives and in human adventures for a longer period with or without the SVI. Therefore, every member is invited to be involved gradually in the organisation’s management. This is an additional step within the practical learning-process of active citizenship. Our former volunteers can get involved especially in future volunteers’ training, in the organisation’s management, in the implementation of thematic working groups, in new projects and partners research, in the communication unit, in work camps supervision or just by implementing internal fun activities.
The SVI is proud to be a non-profit organisation managed by its own members which purpose is to ensure that international volunteering is accessible to as many youth as possible. All our human and financial resources are moving towards this objective. We work hard to innovate continuously, to minimise our costs and to optimise our resources while maximising the quality of our actions. Moreover, contrary to preconceived ideas, we believe that non-profit sector is far from being expensive, represents a significant part of democratic dynamism and is a major lever for human development and for economic recovery all over the world.
Therefore, we endeavour to support associative initiatives, wherever they are, especially by sending and welcoming international volunteers.
Finally, we endeavour to differentiate our values and actions from those of «volunourism» companies. We think that such companies are using and distorting solidarity values as well as association sector vocabulary in order to make a significant profit at the expense of their partners and volunteers.
The SVI is primarily a volunteering organisation founded by young people and for young people.