In France, about 10 million people volunteer each year. The real economic value of this commitment amounts to € 76 million annually. This desire to help others selflessly is very important to maintain the associative network and to sustain social action.
In our local workshop in Toulouse, we discussed a lot about the motivations and the commitment of volunteers. Through several testimonies, it seems that the motivations can be both collective and individual and that it is also a matter of proximity, affinity and insertion into a local community network. This commitment is also closely linked to the level of religious practice and family environment. We can see that the factors that influence the motivation of the volunteer are diverse, including the desire to help others, the desire to put one’s skills to help people in difficulty, a difficult personal experience, the desire to have intercultural exchange.
Catherine Bouloc is a benevolent social worker within the association Ecoute et Solidarité Protestante (member of the FEP) and she is particularly commited for the professional and social integration of the people she helps. She explains that it is very important to support people in difficulty through a pragmatic approach by putting her own skills and experience at the service of others:
“It is necessary to listen, to be available and efficient while doing our best to understand the culture and experiences of the person who needs help. It is through this approach that we can really reach out to others.”
As a volunteer, her job is to assist jobseekers towards employment while providing advice on administrative procedures needed.
“The work of the volunteer can also be difficult because sometimes we need to develop skills that we do not necessarily have at the beginning. It is necessary for the volunteer to be able to have trainings and seminars especially trainings about the needs of the different persons we are helping.”
The feeling of being useful to others also fosters Catherine’s engagement: “Volunteering allows me to put my skills at other’s service.”
Eva Maria Richter, whose work with the German women in Toulouse is at the heart of the work of the French project on economic migration, thinks it is important to understand the situation of the people who need help :
“Being German in the context of migration, I understand the daily lives of the people I help. So I can offer them proper guidance, solutions to their loneliness and means to overcome the recurrent obstacles and hurdles such as inactivity, language barriers and isolation.”
Eva-Maria works with women who have moved to Toulouse and the surroundings due to economic and professional migration of their husbands. She helps them to get over the cultural differences between their past life in Germany and their new experiences in France. Having long been involved with these women on a voluntary basis, Eva Maria Richter is now coach and accompanies at them on a regular basis:
“All my commitment is oriented towards openness and intercultural sharing. Although initially, my work is mainly to provide practical support for the first administrative steps and the relocation in Toulouse, it is important to note that, little by little, I also propose ideas for the German expatriates to have other activities and adapt to their new life. The main aim is to help the German expatriates out of their daily routine to meet others.”