Challenges of volunteer work in Estonia
The article provides an overview of volunteer work in Estonia, highlights major problems and needs in developing volunteer work and offers ways of creating an environment favorable to volunteering through legal regulation, state policies and support systems.
Volunteer activity has developed more slowly in Estonia than in other European Union states. Similarly to other Central and Eastern European countries, our society lacks a common conception of what volunteer activity is. Even though volunteer activity in Estonia is making strides, little by little, a continuing problem is a low level of knowledge and lack of an overview about volunteer work, a low level of value and merit ascribed by the community to such work, lack of subsidization by public authorities, and the inability of organizations to recruit volunteers. It is also necessary to create a legal framework for supporting volunteer work, to define the legal status of volunteer, to determine what the relationship is between volunteers and the organization they work for as well as between the volunteer and the beneficiary of the work, and how to compensate expenses connected to volunteering. To better organize and develop the sector, a national body is needed to design policies that support volunteering and would implement the corresponding measures. There is also a clear need for support structures (for example, volunteer centers), which would help direct activity, involve volunteers and advise organizations that enlist volunteers.