A study of young volunteers and volunteering in a Cape Town based, international NGO

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

What motivates a group of young people from a disadvantaged community spend between 20 and 50 hours every week in a voluntary organisation in their area? This dissertation has studied young volunteers aged between 18 and 28, who are working in a non-govemmental organisation (NGO) operating in a disadvantaged local community on the Cape Flats in Cape Town, South Africa. The aim of this research was to gain knowledge of their motivations for being full-time volunteers for this NGO. This is a qualitative, ethnographic study, which seeks to provide information about the young volunteers and volunteering in a descriptive way. The methods used for data collection have been participative observation, interviews, personal conversations, drawings of social network maps and a questionnaire. The numbers of interviewees are 12 in total, viz. ll volunteers and the Manager of the NGO. Clary et al (1992) created an empirical instrument that can be used to map out an individual's reasons for volunteering, namely the 'volunteers function inventory' (VFI), which suggest 6 main motivations for volunteering. This functional approach for studying motivation applies to volunteers in high-risk communities because it relates the individual’s psychological functions to his/her experiences, current life situation and stage of development. The data analysis in this study indicates that there are several motivations at stake, which can operate at the same time as well as change over time. In Cole's recent study (2004), she found that there does not appear to be any one motivational reason for volunteering. People do volunteer work for different reasons, but for volunteers from high-risk communities, values are very important motivators: "I feel compassion toward people in need" seems to apply to the majority of the volunteers who participated in this study. In addition to value based motivations for volunteering, the following three motivations are to be found in this group of 11 volunteers: the social benefits of volunteering, the personal development of being a volunteer and, last but not least, the love for the work they are doing.

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