Youth Volunteers as Change as Agents in Disaster in Response
Subject: Strategic Management | Topics:

When disaster strikes the local youth are the first ones to respond. Volunteerism has been present since the beginning of human history. The youth constitute one third of total population in Bangladesh. For this important portion of population, determination of national outlook is undeniable. This study looks into the work of BDRCS youth volunteers as case of youth volunteers in disaster management. The purpose is to find the major factors that enable them to perform best as well as the barriers that hinder their work. The study used primary data through group interviews with BDRCS volunteers in Dhaka city and Manikganj district and key informant interviews and one case story.

Findings from the study shows most youth joined in the volunteer program on their own. They prefer search and rescue work and are proud to be BDRCS volunteers. They are concerned about personal safety, quality and appropriate training, coordination, wrong attitude, gender inequality and media coverage. People engaging in similar acts may have different underlying motivations for doing so. Findings from the study shows that mostly, the BDRCS volunteers are motivated based on their values which are welfare of others or unselfishness. Other underlying motives includeopportunity to learn, career prospects, social pressure, to reduce feelings of guilt and enhance one‘s self-esteem. Activities for taking forward their work includes ensuring quality and appropriate training and appropriate gears and tools for search and rescue work, awareness raising, recognition and visibility of their work. Psychosocial counseling is important after rescue operations, as it is important to heal the psychological wounds after an emergency or a critical event.

The study suggests involving volunteers in all stages of disaster management planning process. It is a matter of combined responsibility that volunteers are recognized for the contributions and their needs are ensured for them to accomplish their efforts successfully.


Bangladesh is a low-lying deltaic country in South Asia formed by the Ganges, the Brahmaputra and the Meghna rivers. More than 310 rivers and tributaries have made this country a land of rivers. Diversified cultural heritage, archaeological sites and the natural beauty of the country have made this land attractive. The country has the world‘s longest unbroken sandy beach of 120km, sloping gently down to the blue waters of the Bay of Bengal. Around 52% percent of the civilian labor force of the country is engaged in agriculture and 14% is engaged in industry. Per capita GDP for 2010-11 was US$ 751 (BBS 2010).

Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries of the world in terms of natural and anthropogenic hazards, is a low-lying deltaic country covering an area of 147,470 sq. km and supporting about 150 million people with a population density of 1033 per km. The geographical setting and meteorological characteristics has made the country vulnerable to different geo-hazards and hydro-metrological hazards. The major disasters concerned in the country are floods, cyclones, droughts, tidal surges, tornadoes, earthquakes, river erosion, landslide, fire, infrastructure collapse, high arsenic contents of ground water, water logging, water and soil salinity, epidemic, and various forms of pollution etc. These events are termed as disasters when they adversely affect the entire environment, including human beings, shelters and the resources essential for livelihoods (BMD and BWDB 2013).

Natural and human induced hazards such as floods, cyclones, droughts, tidal surges, tornadoes, earthquakes, river erosion, fire, infrastructure collapse, high arsenic contents of ground water, water logging, water and soil salinity, epidemic, and various forms of pollution are frequent occurrences. Climate change adds a new dimension to community risk and vulnerability. Although the magnitude of these changes may appear to be small, they could substantially increase the frequency and intensity of existing climatic events (floods, droughts, cyclones etc). Current indications are that not only will floods and cyclones become more severe; they will also start to occur outside of their ―established seasons‖. Events, such as drought, may not have previously occurred in some areas and may now be experienced (National Plan for Disaster Management 2010-2015). The country is predominantly an agricultural with 31.5 percent of the population below poverty line (BBS 2010). The economy of the country directly or indirectly depends on the weather conditions. A large number of poor people live in high-risk areas of the southern part of Bangladesh. The vulnerability is so miserable that there are people who settle in the newly accreted land in Bay of Bengal and its surrounding areas, which is occasionally hit by tidal bore, or devastating cyclone. The adverse impacts of all the  natural hazards affecting socio-economic condition need to be reduced for sustainable development (Nawas and Nurun 2011).

National household income and expenditure survey states that about 40 per cent of Bangladeshi households were poor and more than one quarter was extremely poor. In Bangladesh, damage caused by natural disasters is one of the main sources of crisis for poor households. Every year, natural calamities such as floods, cyclones, erosion, and droughts cause extensive damage to crops, homes, household and community assets, which can lead to illness or death including decrease in livelihood opportunities of the poor. Disasters hamper physical access to food and food stocks, destroy crops, and disrupt markets. Natural disasters directly affect household food security because loss of employment opportunities, an increase in health expenditure and increase in necessary food expenditure (BBS 2005).

In 2007-2008, two major floods, a devastating cyclone, and a spike in food prices intensified poverty and food insecurity for many people. The coping strategies of the poor included reducing food intake and health expenditures, withdrawing children from school, and taking on debt, all of which are likely to have lasting impacts (UNICEF 2013). Despite food distributions, the situation made children vulnerable to micronutrient deficiencies (IFRC 2012). Every year a huge number of education institutions have to remain closed for a long time due to disasters clearly demonstrates that the impact of disaster on education is irreparable (Action Aid Bangladesh 2012).

Young people in the communities are often seriously affected when disasters strikes and can face severe difficulties in coping with unexpected and traumatic interruptions to their lives. But despite this, the world‘s youth are also the very people who can teach their local communities and the wider world on how to reduce the risks and impact of disasters. Young people are unlike any other demographic group in their ability to bring about meaningful change in social behavior and attitudes. We must not underestimate their potential to make a real difference in the time of disasters. Young people are key agents for social change, and are providing the energy, creative ideas and determination to drive innovation and reform (Mukhier 2015).

There are more than 1.2 billion youth in the world today, the largest group in history. The present world population is over 7.3 billion (World Population Clock March 2015). The UN, for statistical consistency across regions, defines ‗youth‘, as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years, without prejudice to other definitions by Member States. All UN statistics on youth are based on this definition, as illustrated by the annual yearbooks of statistics published by the United Nations system on demography, education, employment and health. The youth constitute one third of total population in Bangladesh. For this important portion of population, determination of national outlook is undeniable. The history of our nation is enlightened by the heroic contribution of the youth. The youth of the country  played a vital role in the language movement of 1952, mass upsurge of 1969, liberation war of 1971 and in all crisis after liberation. It is indispensable to encourage the youth in light of their glorious history of the past (The National Youth Policy 2003). The present Bangladesh National Youth Policy is updated as well as It focuses on the changing global socio-economic situation, rapid advancement in the fields of science & information technology, the problems, rights, responsibilities of the youth, existing youth activities etc. the subject matter of National Youth Policy has been determined. The National Youth Policy 2003 defines youth in Bangladesh as between 18-35 years. The main objective of the present national Youth Policy is to create disciplined and efficient work force having responsibility of good citizen and creative mentality with a view of involving the youth in the national development stream as well as having respect towards national heritage and culture through a planned process. To ensure favorable environment towards productive practical education, training and self-employment for the youth and bringing out all dormant potentialities including their leadership quality aiming at national progress (National Youth Policy 2003). Volunteerism is critical and increasingly popular, for young people to bring about positive change in society, and it is becoming more and more relevant as a mechanism to engage young people in global peace and sustainable human development. For instance, as governments, United Nations entities and civil society organizations debate and articulate the post – 2015 development agenda, there is a strong call for a bottom- up process in which young people‘s voices are included and youth are actively engaged in the process, and volunteering is a viable mechanism for this (UNV 2014).

Youth volunteers around the world are involved in hundreds of different types of activities which mainly involved are collecting, preparing, distributing, or serving food; fundraising; tutoring; coach, referee, or supervise sports teams, elderly care, education, healthcare, social mobilization and advocacy programs and many other issues including disaster risk reduction and response. Youth volunteers do community development work in their local communities and communities outside their countries.

Natural hazards present many risks to young people, particularly those living in poverty in less developed countries. Disasters can affect young people‘s education, livelihoods and health, and also setback gains made through development activities. Young people are assets in development and therefore supporting them to identify and address the disaster risks that face them is essential (Cumming 2012).

It is a fact that when a disaster strikes, local people are the first to respond, before any other outside agencies arrives to assist in recovery efforts. Many of these first responders who struggle to save lives with limited resources and skills at their disposal are energetic young people. Young people must therefore be included, trained and empowered to carryout disaster prevention, preparation, and planning and response efforts.

Traditionally disaster management has been dominated by top-down relief efforts assuming children and youth are passive victims with no role in disaster preparedness and response. Involving youth in disaster preparedness process not only benefits them, their families, and communities, but also contributes to grassroots empowerment, which boosts levels of ownership within their overall disaster preparedness plan (Omoto & Snyder 1990). Research has indicated that when young people receive preparedness training they are more likely to act wisely and protect themselves against abuse; exploitation and illegal drug trafficking (UNICEF 2011).

Though disasters are local phenomenon, in these modern days their devastating impact can be felt beyond borders of impacted nations in terms of human, material losses or the flow of refugees. It is therefore, important that the disaster reduction efforts be addressed in a multilateral and comprehensive way. These unforeseen disasters require immediate, coordinated and effective response by multiple government agencies, volunteers, relief agencies and private sector in order to meet human needs and speed recovery efforts. Comprehensive disaster management and emergency preparedness should be based on the concept of active young people‘s participation in all phases of the disaster cycle. Rather than seeing disaster-affected youth as victims or passive recipients of outside assistance good disaster management must recognize the value of including them in the planning process. There is no better resource in a community than young people. It may be easier to obtain funding for projects and related disaster preparedness programs, but without sufficient community resources in place, disaster preparedness and risk reduction

are not possible. Resource building enhances community capability and provides positive response to various emergencies; reduce disaster risks, and helps foster confidence, dignity, and resilience (DAPOTA 2015).

A volunteer as any individual ―who offers him/herself to a service without an expectation of monetary compensation‖ (Shin and Kleiner 2003). Volunteer management research has been an important topic in the social sciences. The different areas that have been researched include the motives for volunteering, i.e., the reasons why people volunteer (Bussell et al 2002 and Canaan and Goldberg 1991). Opportunities for personal growth, recognition, achievement, and a desire to contribute to the community are some of the incentives for volunteering cited by past research. Another topic that has been studied in the past involves the demographic characteristics of volunteers, such as education and gender, and their relationship to present and future commitment levels (Vianen 2008 and Slammers 1991).

The area of volunteer retention and the analysis of what practices encourage renewed volunteerism and why people continue to volunteer is also an important topic (Hager 2004 and Gidron 1984). Some of the management practices that positively influence the retention of volunteers include recognition activities and matching volunteers to appropriate tasks (Gidron 1984) for example, cites task achievement and the quality of the work itself as some of the variables that could better predict volunteer retention. Each  of these areas of research reinforces the observation that volunteers play a vital role in the provision of assistance in humanitarian relief situations. The manner in which they do so, and the specific characteristics of their participation in relief efforts play an important role in the development.

The willingness of community members to volunteer is critical for the success of community-based Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) projects. While much literature documents the challenges of participation in community-based projects, very little has been written on the motivations of those who volunteer, and even less on the incentives and barriers to youth volunteers in less developed countries.

In recent decades, government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and local communities in Bangladesh have undertaken various measures to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, including floods and cyclones, on the people, economy and society. The concept of developing national preparedness emerged, as opposed to postevent response, to disasters like floods and cyclones evolved after the floods of 1988 and the devastating cyclone of 1991. The main argument behind this shift was that if people were well prepared for frequent disasters they would minimize their impacts, resulting in a reduced need for relief and rehabilitation. It was also strongly felt by the public institutions that if disaster preparedness could be integrated in the socio-economic development process at household, community, regional and national levels, it would build the long-term capacity of the community to mitigate risk and vulnerability to disasters. The aim of the shift also included changing disaster management approaches and measures from structural engineering interventions to the social dimensions and community partnerships (Mallick et al 2005).

Bangladesh Government has a well-established disaster management system in place. The inter-ministerial roles and responsibilities from national and local levels are detail and quite clear with disaster management committees and agencies from national to local level. The disaster management act, plan, policies and guidelines include national and global disaster management and climate change agendas in the system as well. Based on the existing achievements and focuses on the ‘gaps’ in current disaster related project interventions, there has been a growing recognition in Bangladesh that renewed efforts should be directed toward more comprehensive programming that contextualizes all elements of disaster handling within a broader risk management framework and in doing so creates a more coordinated programming environment (Mallick et al, 2005).

The stated significant change in emergency and disaster management approaches demanded institutional restructuring in the government portfolios. Consequently, the government of Bangladesh, led by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, has undertaken various steps in the form of policy, strategy and programs considering the concept of disaster management through mitigation, preparedness, recovery and rehabilitation. The government established the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) under the Ministry of Disaster Management in 1993 to promote disaster prevention, mitigation and preparedness; to provide guidelines; and to organize training and awareness for the concerned people and stakeholders to mitigate the impacts of disasters.

Currently, the DMB has focused on risk reduction through community mobilization, capacity building and linking risk reduction with the socio-economic development of the poor and vulnerable groups and with developing the DMB‘s partnership with other government agencies, NGOs and international organizations.

Alongside the development thinkers, international development partners such as UNDP, DFID, Oxfam GB, USAID, Care International, Caritas, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS), CARE, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), United Nations, UNICEF, WFP, World Vision, Plan Bangladesh, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Islamic Relief Worldwide (IRW), and Oxfam Australia, Action Aid, Plan Bangladesh, Muslim Aid some others involved in DRR. Among national NGOs ASA, Proshika, BRAC are especially involved with relief and rehabilitation activities and local NGOs those are concerned with, and are experienced in disaster management in Bangladesh.

The government has promoted the approach of capacity building and disaster preparedness at all levels. A call for institutional partnerships therefore stemmed from both the government as well as non- governmental and civil society organizations. A few key policy planners and senior government officials have also favored this new thinking and reflected this through the renaming of the Ministry of Relief and Rehabilitation to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief. In 1993, the Ministry of Disaster Management then established the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) and the government set up a national council and various committees at national, district, upazila (sub-district) and union (local council) levels, for overall disaster management preparedness (Mallick et al, 2005). The implications of this institutional restructuring were manifold, and evolved through a sequence of placing increasing emphasis on institutional partnership and community-based disaster management (CBDM).

In Bangladesh, at the national level, four high-profile bodies were established for the multi-sectoral coordination of emergencies associated with environmental disasters as well as disaster management in general: the National Disaster Management Council (NDMC), headed by the Prime Minister; the Inter-Ministerial Disaster Management

Coordination Committee (IMDMCC), led by the Minister of Food and Disaster Management; the National Disaster Management Advisory Committee (NDMAC), headed by a specialist nominated by the Prime Minister; and a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Disaster Management to supervise national policies and programs. The common missions of these bodies are to provide policy and management guidance and the macro-coordination of activities, particularly relief and rehabilitation. Presently, the lead actor in disaster management is the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MoDMR). It has the role of inter-ministerial planning of disaster management  and coordination and of responding in the event of a disaster. Under the MoDMR, there are two line agencies, the Disaster Management Bureau (DMB) and the Directorate of Relief and Rehabilitation (DRR). The DMB is a small professional unit at the national level that performs specialist functions, working with district and upazila (sub-district) administrations and line ministries under the overall guidance of the IMDMCC. It is a catalyst for planning, for arranging public education, and for organizing the systematic training of government officers and other personnel from the national down to the union (local council) or community level. The DRR manages the post-disaster provision of relief and rehabilitation. At present, it leads risk reduction at the local community level.

Among all the other ministries, the Ministry of Water Resources (MoWR) plays a vital role in flood management as well. The Flood Forecasting and Warning Center (FFWC), under the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) of the MoWR, plays an important role in providing early warning about impending floods to the agencies involved (Haque and Uddin 2013). All these agencies involve volunteers. Besides, the government has a ―Standing Order (SOD)‖ for natural disasters (mainly for floods and cyclones), which was last updated in 2010. All ministries, divisions/departments and government agencies follow the standing orders during normal times, precautionary and warning stages, the disaster stage and the post-disaster stage.

In the areas of both cyclone and flood hazards, the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) and various donor agencies play important roles. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) formally started its mission to reduce human sufferings and save lives of the vulnerable people since 16 December 1971. Having auxiliary status to the People‘s Republic of Bangladesh, BDRCS is delivering humanitarian services through its 68 branches across the country during natural and man-made disasters (IFRC 2014).

The Cyclone Preparedness Program (CPP) was established in 1972 following the devastating cyclone of 1970, under an agreement between the BDRCS and the government of Bangladesh, with an aim to undertake effective cyclone preparedness measures in the coastal areas. CPP, under the BDRCS, has a joint management structure, with two committees, viz. a 7-member Policy Committee headed by the Minister of MoFDM, and a 15-member Implementation Board led by the Secretary of the MoFDM. Now the CPP has about 33,120 trained volunteers, including 5,520 women (MoF FDM 2005-2009).

Volunteers are essential to the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (IFRC 2011). But exactly how many volunteers are there and how much value do they offer? The 2011 IFRC study provides answers. Around 13.1 million active Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers donated nearly 6 billion US dollars worth of services globally that reached about 30 million people in 2009. Volunteers extend the IFRC paid workforce by a global average of 20 volunteers to every paid staff member. In sub-Saharan Africa it is 327 volunteers for every staff member; in South East Asia, 432 volunteers to one staff  member; while the lowest ratio is in the United States and Canada with 11 volunteers to one staff member. The survey, based on figures from 107 National Societies, not only provides the value and numbers behind the volunteering contingent but also describes the many social contributions that they make in their communities in the fields of health, poverty reduction and response to emergencies.

The household labour based survey revealed that a total of 16,586,000 people over 15 years of age volunteered in 2010. The survey estimated the contribution of volunteering to the Bangladesh economy in 2010 at approximately 1.66 billion US dollars. The finding also showed that the economic value of volunteering in 2009-2010 was equivalent to 1.7 per cent of GDP Nearly 80 percent of volunteering in Bangladesh is conducted outside formal organizations. Mostly it takes the form of informal, spontaneous and sporadic help by individuals or groups. Volunteering by men constitutes 76.3 per cent with women at only 23.7 per cent. This, however, could well be an underestimate since the survey questioned heads of households who are usually men (BBS 2010).

In 2010 the BBS conducted a comprehensive national survey on volunteerism, the first of its kind ever carried out in the country. The survey addressed rural and urban volunteering; age, gender and education level of volunteers; volunteering rates; formal organizational and non-organizational volunteering; annual volunteering hours; and monetary valuations. The results were discussed at the National Volunteering Conference in Dhaka in July 2011. The main recommendation was the establishment of a National Volunteer Agency responsible for planning, guiding and managing all volunteer activities in the country. Its purpose will be to enhance the contribution of volunteerism to individual and social welfare and wellbeing in Bangladesh.

The National Volunteering Conference strongly recommended that the BBS undertake a follow-up qualitative survey to substantiate the results in question. It also called for a more broad- based survey for further examination of regional and gender differences in volunteering and to provide information on reasons for, and barriers to, volunteering. For volunteer involving organizations, measuring helps them to gain new perspectives on their programmes. Moreover, with facts and figures at hand they can enhance their public relations efforts, increase accountability, expand their options for resource mobilization, and provide volunteers with an overall picture of the sum total of their efforts.

On another level, if national governments are to take volunteering into account in national policy, they have to be convinced of its value, including its economic value. Too often, governments are unaware of the extent of volunteering, the different segments of society that it includes, and the value it creates. Once they are convinced of the benefit factors of volunteerism into decision-making, governments need reliable data to develop appropriate strategies. This ensures that this resource is properly nurtured and harnessed for the overall wellbeing of the country (UN Volunteers 2011).

It is important for the volunteers themselves that the impact of their actions be recognized. Documenting the time and efforts expended by many millions of volunteers helps to provide recognition and to stimulate the desire to engage. In the process, others may be motivated to participate when they see the contribution of volunteer action and appreciate that volunteering is a normal part of civic engagement.

Volunteerism is a fertile field for research. Not only are the subjects above of academic interest, they are also of immediate usefulness to practitioners in volunteer programs. It is not going to be easy to develop research designs to tackle the all the topics because documentation is often nonexistent for many volunteer activities. This is changing, however, as record keeping becomes more developed for volunteer programs ―I urge researchers to consider going beyond the ordinary to study volunteerism. The potential rewards are many‖ (Ellis 1985).

One way to describe the needs for research in volunteerism is to say that everything is left to do. As a professional field, volunteer program management is less than 20 years old. While volunteers have been around since the days of the Mayflower, formal volunteer programs with trained leadership are a recent development. Volunteers themselves have largely been taken for granted. It is a new phenomenon to consider them a subject worthy of study. This is compounded by the fact that until only a few years ago, no academic major, either at the bachelor or advanced degree level, offered students courses in volunteer program management. Therefore, the subject was not even considered for serious attention (Ellis 1985).

In the past few years, however, some students and faculty have begun to show interest in questions related to the field of volunteerism. They are finding it difficult (if not impossible) to locate data with which to work and are beginning to recognize that information of the most elemental sort must first be uncovered for centralization of existing research, or–at a minimum–agreed-upon taxonomies for indexing/abstracting purposes. There are many unpublished masters and doctoral-level theses on university library shelves that are not being disseminated to serious volunteerism researchers. We need to bring this basic research out into the volunteerism forums (Ellis 1985).

The willingness of community members to volunteer is critical for the success of community-based DRR projects. While much literature documents the challenges of participation in community-based projects, very little has been written on the motivations of those who volunteer (Cumming 2012).) and even less on the incentives and barriers to youth volunteers in less developed countries.

Despite the challenges and threats that millions of people face, we must recognize that people, including young people, in hazard-prone communities are themselves agents of change. Helping communities to reach their potential requires new models of working together to address the barriers to resilience. It is now a matter of collective responsibility, collective action and collective accountability. While we cannot prevent  another tsunami, we can build better safeguards that will offer greater protection for future generations. (Konoé 2015).

There is indeed huge potential in youth volunteers and it is critical that the challenges they face in their efforts are minimized and enhance their capacities to be effective contributors in their endeavors.

Objectives of the Study

(i) To identify strengths and weaknesses of youth volunteer activities.

(ii) To identify key challenges and critical success factors those support the implementation and delivery.

Research Questions

(a) What are the major factors that enable youth volunteers to perform best in disaster management?

(b) What are the factors for youth volunteers that act as barriers in their effective contributions?

Study Area

The area selected for the study was in Dhaka city and Manikganj district headquarter. Participants of FGD attend BDRCS headquarter for meetings and other activities. One FGD was conducted when volunteers were attending an award giving ceremony at the headquarter and one when volunteers attending a meeting at the headquarter. The third FGD was conducted in Manikganj with volunteers of that area. A detail interview was undertaken with a volunteer in Manikgan to collect information for the Case Story. KIIs were conducted at the BDRCS headquarter as well.


According to the Merriam Webster Definition of Volunteer:

(i) a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service (ii) one who renders a service or takes part in a transaction while having no legal concern or interest, one who receives a conveyance or transfer of property without giving valuable consideration.

Volunteer management research has been an important topic in the social sciences. The different areas that have been researched include the motives for volunteering, i.e., the reasons why people volunteer (Bussell 2002, Canaan and Goldberg-Glen 1991).

Opportunities for personal growth, recognition, achievement, and a desire to contribute to the community are some of the incentives for volunteering cited by past research. Another topic that has been studied in the past involves the demographic characteristics of volunteers, such as education and gender, and their relationship to present and future commitment levels (Vianen 2008 and Slammers, 1991).

Volunteerism in disaster management is well accepted and widely practiced. The roles volunteers can play in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and preparedness, early warning, disaster response and post-disaster rehabilitation have been recognized in a number of policy instruments, such as the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005, and many international bodies, including the UN and the Red Cross, have well-organized volunteering systems for motivated and enthusiastic young people.

In order to be able to measure any phenomenon, it is first necessary to define it. This task is especially challenging in the case of volunteer work for a variety of reasons (ILO):

  1. The term ―volunteer‖ or ―volunteering‖ is not widely understood in all parts of the world, and has a variety of negative connotations in some societies, where ―forced‖ volunteering was a widespread practice;
  2. In some societies, ―helping‖ is an expectation of the culture so that volunteering is not easily identified as a distinct form of activity. Thus, even in contexts where a great deal of volunteering takes place, respondents may not recognize their own acts as something special or distinctive called ―volunteer work‖ as opposed to being simply a normal part of life in the community;
  3. While volunteering is generally thought to be an activity undertaken without pay, it is not uncommon to have some form of assistance for volunteers, such as meals or coverage of modest out-of-pocket expenses. This makes it necessary to differentiate such partial coverage of expenses or provision of subsistence from actual compensation; and
  4. Generally speaking, assistance provided without pay to one‘s family members is not considered volunteer work. However, the definition of what constitutes one‘s family, or even ―immediate family,‖ varies among countries and cultures.

Existing International Definitions of Volunteer Work by ILO

A number of statistical offices, international organizations, and researchers around the world have already developed surveys of volunteer activity. The definitions of such Activity utilized in these existing surveys provide useful guidance in forging a consensus definition for the work being proposed here. Some examples of these prior approaches include the following:

The United Kingdom Central Statistical Office defines volunteer activity as: ―Any activity which involves spending time, unpaid, doing something which aims to benefit someone (individuals or groups) other than or in addition to close relatives, or to benefit the environment‖.

Canada‘s definition is: ―people who perform service without pay, on behalf of a charitable or other non-profit organization. This includes any unpaid help provided to schools, religious organizations, sports or community associations‖.

Denmark‘s statistical office defines volunteer work as ―unpaid work done for nonprofit institutions‖.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics considers volunteers to be ―persons who performed unpaid volunteer activities through or for an organization.‖

The Estonian definition of voluntary activity is ―activity voluntarily undertaken without pay to help someone other than members of your household or relatives. It can be any kind of help to individuals directly or through organizations or associations, also selfinitiative joint action for improving the environment of your neighborhood or community or activity for the benefit of society‖ (Statistics Estonia, 2001).

The United Nations General Assembly Resolution adopted on 5 December 2001defines volunteering as: ” (ILO 2007) a wide range of activities, including traditional forms of mutual aid and self-help, formal service delivery and other forms of civic participation, undertaken of free will, for the general public good and where monetary reward is not the principal motivating factor”.

The United Nations‘ Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts defines volunteering as ―work without monetary pay or legal obligation provided for persons living outside the volunteer‘s own household.‖

These definitions share a number of common elements emphasizing that volunteer work involves service or activity undertaken without pay for the benefit of persons other than close relatives. Where the definitions differ is in whether they incorporate the term ―volunteer‖ and in whether they include direct help to individuals or only activity done for a nonprofit or other organization.

ILO Proposed Definition and Rationale

Building on these prior efforts as well as input from an Advisory Group of nonprofit experts and a Technical Experts Group assembled by the ILO proposes the following working definition of ―volunteer work‖: ―activities or work that some people willingly do without pay to promote a cause or help someone outside of their household or immediate family.‖

Key Features and Considerations

A number of key features of this definition, and of the activity it identifies as ―volunteer work,‖ deserve special attention:

It involves work: This means that the activity produces something of potential economic value for its recipient, and the recipient must be someone other than the person undertaking the activity. Playing a musical instrument for one‘s own enjoyment is therefore not volunteering; but playing a musical instrument for the enjoyment of residents in a nursing home is.

It is unpaid: Volunteer work by definition is work without monetary pay or compensation. This differentiates ―volunteer work‖ from what the Resolution passed at the 13th International Conference of Labour Statisticians defined as ―paid employment,‖ i.e. ―persons who during the reference period performed some work for wage or salary, in cash or in kind.‖ However, some forms of compensation may still be possible without violating this feature of the definition.

Volunteers may receive non-monetary benefits from volunteering in the form of skills development, social connections, job contacts, social standing, and feelings of self-worth. Some forms of monetary compensation may also be possible without violating the definition. The test is whether the compensation can be considered to be ―significant.‖

Not considered to be ―significant compensation‖ and therefore permissible are: Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses of the volunteer assignment (e.g. travel costs, costs of equipment); Compensation that is largely symbolic; and Stipends intended to cover living expenses of the person performing the work that are not contingent on the market value, quality or quantity of the work, or its outcome (if any). Whether the compensation is considered ―significant‖ or not will likely vary from place to place. In-kind provision of food in a low-wage area, for example, could constitute significant compensation. Each country should determine what level of payment should be considered ―without pay,‖ and the survey administrators could include these decisions in the survey instructions.

It is non-compulsory or non-obligatory: Volunteer activity must involve a significant element of choice. Persons engage in these activities willingly, without being legally or institutionally obligated or otherwise coerced to do so. Court-mandated unpaid work, alternative service related to a military draft, or unpaid internships required for graduation from educational institutions would therefore be excluded. However, social obligation, such as peer pressure, parental pressure, or expectations of social groups, does not make the activity compulsory.

It embraces both informal volunteering and formal volunteering: Individuals can engage in volunteer activities directly with individuals (informal volunteering) or through nonprofit or other types of organizations (formal volunteering). The definition of volunteer work described in and embodied in the survey module accompanying it covers both of these types of volunteering. This is so because informal volunteering is at least as important as formal volunteering in many countries, particularly in countries or regions where there are fewer nonprofit organizations through which persons might volunteer formally.

It does not embrace work done without pay for members of one’s household or immediate family: With informal as well as formal volunteering included, it becomes especially important to differentiate between help provided to one‘s own family members and help provided to persons outside the volunteer‘s own household or immediate family. Only the latter qualifies as ―volunteer work‖ under the definition adopted here. While the volunteer, or his or her family, may reap some reward from the volunteer work, someone outside the household or immediate family must also benefit. The definition of household or ―immediate family‖ used to measure volunteer work will most likely be broader than that used to define ―household‖ for other parts of a labour survey. Immediate family is intended to embrace ―close relatives,‖ those for whom a person would normally feel a sense of ―familial obligation.‖ Caring for one‘s parents and grandparents as well as one‘s spouse‘s parents and grandparents would thus likely not be considered ―volunteer work‖ for the purposes of this survey. The exact interpretation of this convention is likely to vary from country to country, however, and statistical agencies are encouraged to spellout the concept common in their countries. It includes volunteering done withoutcompulsion in all three possible types of institutional settings: nonprofit organizations, government, and private businesses.

The area of volunteer retention and the analysis of what practices encourage renewed volunteerism and why people continue to volunteer is also an important topic (Hager 2004 and Gidron 1984). Some of the management practices that positively influence the retention of volunteers include recognition activities and matching volunteers to appropriate tasks. (Gidron 1984), for example, cites task achievement and the quality of the work itself as some of the variables that could better predict volunteer retention.

Each of these areas of research reinforces the observation that volunteers play a vital role  in the provision of assistance in humanitarian relief situations. The manner in which they do so, and the specific characteristics of their participation in relief efforts play an important role in the development.

Disasters and emergencies such as fires; severe weather; tornadoes; earthquakes; floods; pandemic event; life threatening situation; equipment failure; a cyber-attack or a terrorist attack can strike anywhere at any time with little or no warning. Such disasters and emergencies come with no respect of geographical or national boarders and never occur at convenient times. All emergencies are ―local‖ phenomenon of which young people and children are a part of. Young people and children must therefore be prepared and trained in all matters pertaining to disaster response. They can use this knowledge to save their own lives and even defend their communities‘ livelihood (DAPOTA 2015).

The Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) Volunteer Programme

History and Background Bangladesh Red Cross Society (BDRCS)

Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) is part of the world‘s largest humanitarian organization, The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. BDRCS has played a crucial humane role in the relief, rescue and rehabilitation of hundreds of thousands of victims of flood, cyclone and other natural and man-made disasters in Bangladesh. The organization has saved, rescued and enhanced lives of people through variety of activities. The BDRCs wide network of volunteers, activists and associations work together to improve disaster preparedness, awareness and rehabilitation in Bangladesh.

The President‘s Order No.26 of 1973 constituted the Bangladesh Red Cross Society on 31 March 1973 with retrospective effect from the 16th December 1971. The Society was recognized by ICRC on 20 September, 1973 and admitted to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies on 02 November, 1973. The name and emblem were changed from Red Cross to Red Crescent on 4th April 1988 vide Act 25 of 1988.The

The President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is the ex-officio President of the Society. The President appoints the Chairman of the Society for a term of 3 years, who may hold two consecutive terms. BDRCS National Headquarters at Red Crescent, Dhaka is the Secretariat of the Society. The Secretariat is organized in six divisions, namely, Disaster Management, Health Services, Planning & Development, Central Support Services and Finance & Accounts and Youth &Volunteer Department.


Reasons for Becoming Volunteer

Findings from the focus group discussions and KIIs show that most youth joined BDRCS volunteer programme on their own interest. Doing something meaningful and helpful is a key motivator and the opportunity to gain skills and work experiences are important as well. It was observed that they wanted to use their free time to do something meaningful and contribute their efforts to serve humanity. They believe that doing volunteer work has positive impact on one‘s personal development. They also feel that this practice will enhance their personal skills i.e. confidence, courage and create employment opportunities. According to the respondents the most important reasons for volunteering were to help humanity and their community. In addition, to learn new skills and to gain experience to benefit their future career.

There are multiple benefits from volunteering (Hall, Musick & Wilson 2008). A national study of university students in England found that respondents gave both altruistic and instrumental reasons for volunteering (Holdsworth 2010). Research in US found that volunteering could enhance students‘ academic development, personal skills development, and sense of civic responsibility. Benefits were also associated with career choice and employability after graduation (Astin and Sax 1998).

The U.K.‘s Russell Commission 2005 highlighted the importance of an employability agenda for young people. Instrumental motives and benefits—such as those relating to career development—dominate the volunteering discourse as students recognize the need to build their personal capital (Holdsworth & Quinn 2010). However, these career-related factors exist alongside a variety of other motivations and benefits.

Globally most volunteers are motivated on their own. Findings through discussions and interviews it appears that there is an inner curiosity and interest among youth that motivated them to become volunteers. They are eager to be engaged in something meaningful at the same time to develop their confidence and other skills. The high spirit of the youth is imperative for a community and a nation. It is critical that the youth power is positively nurtured and developed for them to become excellent human beings, responsible citizens and brilliant future leaders. The potentiality is there and an opportunity to enhance their capacity is crucial for any country.

Activities Most Appreciated and Matching their skills

According to the study A Functional Approach to Volunteerism: Do Volunteer Motives Predict Task Preference? A central premise of the functional approach is that the same behavior may serve different functions for different individuals. More recently, this approach has been used to understand the motives behind volunteering. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether certain volunteer tasks (e.g. reading to the blind,  entering data) differentially satisfy certain motives (e.g. expression of values, career building) and whether individuals prefer tasks with benefits aligned with their own preferred volunteer motives. Results suggested that people idiosyncratically differentiate tasks based on the motives they satisfy. Furthermore, when given a choice, individuals prefer tasks with benefits that match their personally relevant motives.

The Value Function refers to concerns for the welfare of others, and contributions to society. This function has been likened to altruism (Clary & Miller 1986), the value-expressive attitude function (Katz 1960), and the quality of expressiveness (Smith et al., 1956). A study by (Anderson and Moore 1978) provided empirical evidence for the values function. Over 70% of the respondents endorsed ―to help others‖ as a reason for volunteering. Findings from the FGDs shows most preferred search and rescue work in disaster response. The respondents feel this work is rewarding and highly satisfying which cannot be expressed in words. This relates to the above study. They feel that with their support lives can be saved and bring smile on someone‘s life. To work selflessly for the disaster affected people brings out the humanity in them and they feel it is their duty and responsibility. According to the groups not everybody can do what he or she are able to do. Being a volunteer they are able to work directly with the affected people. All expressed that it is highly rewarding when their support saves ones life or change someone‘s life for the better. They feel service is human religion.

The functional approach, volunteerism may serve more than one motive for an individual and likewise, more than one motivation may be served within a group of volunteers who are performing the same activity. Past research has found that people do differ on their motives for volunteering (Omoto & Snyder, 1990). Findings from the study suggest that, where possible, more freedom should be given to volunteers in choosing specific tasks. People prefer tasks they think will satisfy causes important to them. Thus, letting volunteers perform tasks with benefits that match their primary motives should result in a positive volunteer experience, an outcome favorable to all involved. I echo with the statement of the study ―Thus, letting volunteers perform tasks with benefits that match their primary motives should result in a positive volunteer experience, an outcome favorable to all involved‖.

The Understanding Function in which volunteerism gives an opportunity to learn, understand, practice, and apply skills and abilities. This function is related to Katz‘s 1960 knowledge function and (Smith 1956) object appraisal function. In support of this function, (Gidron 1978) found that young volunteers (high school and college students) tended to view their volunteer work as a learning and a selfdevelopment experience. Findings from the FGDs and KII it showed that by getting involved in volunteer activities creates positive attitude towards life. The volunteers tend to be more disciplined and have increased sense of responsibilities than non-volunteer youth. Through the work they are positively engaged and their time is well spent. All group members mentioned that they enjoy working with each other and many become  good friends. As they are busy working as volunteers, it prevents them from getting involved in different types of crime including getting drug addiction and drug abuse. These youth tend to be confident and motivated to make a positive change in their communities and for the nation. Their work marks a positive impact throughout their life.

The Protective Function refers as volunteers to reduce feelings of guilt about being more fortunate than others, or to escape from one‘s own problems. This function could be likened to (Katz 1960) ego-defensive function, (Smith 1956) externalization function, and (Francies 1983) need to express feelings of social responsibility (SR). (Schwartz 1970) found support for the protective function in his study of volunteering to be a bone marrow donor. His results showed that individuals had a greater level of commitment to volunteer when the salience of personal responsibility for others was high. Findings from the FGDs, it was observed that the respondents feel they are fortunate than others and feel responsible to contribute in helping the less fortunate or people in crisis. The sense of social responsibility was clearly evident among them. The feeling is more of social responsibility rather than guilt feeling or escaping from their own problem. The great personal responsibility was apparent among the volunteers.

The Social Function relates in which an individual volunteers due to strong normative or social pressure, or to get along with others in his or her reference group. Conceptually, this function is similar to (Smith 1956) social adjustive function and (Francies 1983) need to respond to the expectations of others (EO). The groups also mentioned that to work together side by side without race and class is rewarding. They feel, as they are unable to help people financially but for being RCY volunteers they can provide relief goods and help people.

The Career Function may serve to increase one‘s job prospects and enhance one‘s career. For example, (Beale 1984) suggested encouraging students to volunteer as the experiences may serve as ―stepping stones‖ to employment. Finding from the FGDs and KIIs show that the youth group considers volunteers work enhances multiples skills. Though the work their confidence level and inspiration to work is enhanced. It increases their interpersonal communication, leadership and team skills.

They believe these sets of skills are important for their future careers and prepares them for better job options which links to the career function.

The Esteem or Enhancement Function serves to enhance one‘s selfesteem, self-confidence, and self-improvement. Results of studies have found support for the esteem function. For example, volunteers working in mental hospitals showed an increase in self-acceptance as a consequence of their volunteer participation (Holzberg et al 1970). My observation is that there is a distinct difference between the volunteers and non-volunteers of the similar age and social groups. The volunteers are clearly more confident, disciplined and have increased self-esteem. The groups and KII stated how the volunteer work enhanced their confidence level, self-esteem and self-improvement. Through this work they are able gain experience and strengthen their capacities. This opportunity has given them to become confident, disciplined with increased self-esteem.



The FGD respondents and key informants feel that there is a need of adequate, proper, practical, international level and advanced training including life saving techniques. There should be separate training on natural disaster, accident and normal situation. Evidence shows information on warning procedures and disaster preparedness training for communities and volunteers are limited. Evacuation drills and disaster preparedness training are infrequent due to restricted localized financial constraints (Calgaro 2009). A further constraint for delivering effective disaster-preparedness training in destination host communities is the timing of such activities. For example, during evacuation drills on Phi Phi Island, many businesses sent only two or three staff to attend the drill, as they did not want to close their businesses entirely during the drill process. Unfortunately, this means that the knowledge and practical experience obtained during the drill was limited to only those who participated in the practice. Similarly, in the case of the BDRCS preparedness and emergency disaster response training of volunteers are limited in  relation to emergency disaster response. Training is one of the most important factors for volunteers to do their jobs efficiently. Although, the BDRCS Volunteers Training

Department has been providing various training courses the respondents feel that is not adequate in terms of quality, number of training and appropriateness. BDRCS currently provides training on Red Cross Red Crescent Movement including International Humanitarian Law (IHL), Staff Induction, Basic First Aid, Community Based First Aid (CBFA), Search & Rescue, Emergency Response, Disaster Management (DM)/Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR), Dead Body Management, Training of Trainers (ToT) etc. It is important that BDRCS conducts training needs assessment for the volunteers; review their current training courses, course curriculum for further advancement of training. The groups feel that there should be skill development training for creating employment opportunities. My understanding on this issue is that BDRCS may not have the scope of directly providing technical skills development training as this not their area of business but they can facilitate in linking the interested volunteers with technical skill development agencies through a special Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Equipment and Logistics

There is inadequate equipment and logistics support for the work. They particularly mentioned about lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). Adequate equipment, proper transport, food and other logistics are important factors for the work. This is highly important for volunteers to have PPEs. The organization must ensure proper gear and required logistics for the volunteers especially in the case of emergency response.

Orientation for Law Enforcing Authorities

The respondents feel that law-enforcing authorities needs to be oriented or trained to be respectful towards volunteers. In this regard, since 2008 the training department, in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), has been conducting First Aid and Search Rescue training for the members of Bangladesh Police, RAB and Ansar & VDP to enable them for providing first aid and emergency humanitarian services during their duty and as when as necessary. BDRCS training department can take this opportunity by incorporating sessions on volunteer‘s work to sensitize the target trainees.

Work Matching Skills and Experience

In many cases work assigned to volunteers may not match with their skills, experience and expertise, this needs to be carefully considered by the organization authority. In such instances, it is suggested volunteers be given the similar tools to determine which motive functions are relevant to the volunteers. This needs to be clarified to the volunteers by the senior authorities as to why they are particularly assigned for particular work. What the organization is able to provide them and if new volunteers are interested to work in the proposed areas. The clarification must be there from the beginning. However, in relation to disaster response if the organization does not have structured roasters for duties/responsibilities there is every possibility of confusion and chaos during response, which can lead to low and dissatisfactory performance.

Sensitizing Families of the Volunteers

The respondents expressed that BDRCS authorities should be involved in explaining families of volunteers about their work, safety and time. The purpose of the request for this is that families are concerned about their well being when they go to emergency  response work. Families worry about the physical and emotional risks that may affect them. Also, the timing, usually emergency response work requires long hours much beyond normal work hours. As I understand, there should be dialogues between the concerned authorities on sensitizing the families. In this relation, it is not easy to explain families that absolute safety security can be ensured to the disaster response volunteers.

However, the method of the explaining process can be identified through workshops and other modes by involving family representatives, volunteers and senior officials.



A number of studies have found evidence of poor information sharing and coordination in inter-agency disaster response situations (e.g., Dawes et al. 2004).

In regards to coordination information technology is essential to improving information sharing and decision-making for emergency responders as it has already drastically reshaped the way organizations interact with each other (Yang and Maxwell 2011).

Technological aspects of Inter Organizational Information-Sharing Systems (IOISS) can enable or impede the coordination and sharing of disaster-related information. High levels of integration and use of technology are likely to result in high levels of information sharing. On the other hand, forwarding all the available information to every individual involved in the disaster response effort will result in a serious information overload. IT can be used appropriately to make sure that everyone receives the relevant information at the right time.

Currently, for emergency response SMS/text message has been the main mode of communication for the BDRCS volunteers. This is highly useful, user friendly and most available communication tool for disaster risk reduction volunteers in Bangladesh. Informal education involves disseminating standard messaging but with the flexibility to accommodate the needs and concerns of specific local audiences. This is particularly effective because peer information, social proof and social support are vital to shifting human behavior. Volunteers are leaders and role models that offer powerful examples as they engage the wider public. Tools focused on stimulating discovery and problem solving allows scope for endless creative activities and materials to appeal to various target-audience segments. There are many facilitation tools from the IFRC‘s CommunityBased Health and First Aid in Action initiative are familiar models, including the facilitator‘s guide. Other examples include the Caribbean Red Cross Societies‘ Better Be Ready campaign kit and expect the Unexpected: Facilitator‘s guide by the Canadian Red Cross.

Media Coverage

The groups is concerned that many people are not much aware about volunteers and their work. As a result different people react differently towards them creating problem for them at work. Lack of media coverage is a concern.

In early 2015 Ministry of Education of the Govt. of Bangladesh has introduced Red Crescent Youth Movement in all secondary and higher secondary level institutions (6th to 12th grade) as co-curriculum. This is remarkable to reach children, youth and families to learn about the Red Crescent Youth movement.

Risk of Life, Physical Injury and Psychological Impairment

They are worried about the risk of life, physical injury and psychological problems. They feel, safety should be ensured for volunteers so that when they go for work they do not become victims and there should be life insurance for all volunteers working for disaster response.

Support for the Rana Plaza rescue workers has been largely ignored despite periodic reports of those suffering from severe trauma, which even led to a suicide as a result of involvement with the rescue operations. Very few of the noted initiatives for rescue workers include a joint effort between Naripokkho and the Association of British Food (ABF). Naripokkho, in collaboration with Safety Assistance for Emergencies (SAFE) started a Healing and Skilling Programme for rescue workers, from December 2013 to October 2014. Prior to this, in realizing the need to extend support to these rescue workers, both the organizations coordinated an experience sharing session with 55 rescuers in May 2013, and also provided three psycho-social counseling sessions to 75 more between May to July 2013. The Sajida Psychological Counseling Support Center has provided counseling sessions and follow-up sessions to 16 of the female victims at EMCH (CPD 2015).

According to Dr. Wei Zhang although all soldiers are not professionally trained for the rescue mission, they are better prepared than many of the volunteers. He says untrained rescue workers are much more likely to suffer mental or physical harm when compared with professionals performing the same tasks. “Some volunteers went to the earthquake scene and untrained, “They just went there and they didn’t know how to do anything. And they actually became victims. They needed the local people to take care of them.” The mental stress of the work, including long working hours and the inability to sleep or to rest, also has a significant impact on volunteers’ physical health. “Psychological symptoms such as sleep disturbance, depression and irritability are important effects, and are more likely to occur in untrained rescue workers. According to him “Our work underlines the need for emergency response procedures to address the physical and mental health needs of both the victims and the rescue workers‖ (Zhang 2011).

A study of volunteers who turned out in the thousands to assist the 9/11 rescue operation,  shows they, along with others who were directly exposed to the events of the 9/11 disaster, are now suffering from a range of physical and mental illnesses. At particular risk for poorer health outcomes are volunteers not affiliated with groups such as the American Red Cross, whose earlier arrival at the WTC sites and day-to-day work left them less prepared for the horrific events and injuries of 9/11. The study showed the need to provide volunteers with long-term screening and treatment for 9/11-related conditions that resulted from hazardous exposures.

Findings showed that, compared with professional workers, volunteers tend to have higher complaint levels. The following factors were found to contribute to mental health complaints of volunteers: Identification with victims as a friend, severity of exposure to gruesome events during disaster work, anxiety sensitivity, and lack of post disaster social support. The review reveals the need for more research regarding predictors of stress in volunteers (News-Medical 2011).

There are a lot of things that can be done, such as mental health screening of volunteers and comprehensive pre-briefing before sending them on a deployment. Burke recommends teaching techniques to reduce anxiety before and during deployment, and to recognize and manage the signs of stress before they become debilitating. She says after the mission a thorough de-briefing process is necessary. She says unfortunately in practice the pressure to get volunteers on the scene means the psychological preparation and debriefing process is sometimes compromised. “You have to deploy less trained people because (the professional teams) have been deployed around the clock and there simply aren’t enough people to go round‖ (Burke 2013).

It is critical to provide absolute guarantee for the physical and mental safety of the volunteers in disaster response. This depends on the situations, the scale of disaster, manpower and other relevant factors. However, it is absolutely important the disaster response volunteers must go through extensive relevant training, drill in the particular disasters they are to respond to; they must be well equipped with proper gears, equipment and logistics. A thorough de-briefing after the mission is highly beneficial for the responders. Protecting own lives should be priority in their work.

Gender Inequality

In terms of social problems there is still inequality between male and female volunteers from the organization and in society. Women and girls are invaluable in disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation processes if real community resilience and significant reduction of disaster impacts are to be achieved. Women must always be part of policy, planning and implementation processes.

Women and girls should be at the centre of the Red Cross Red Crescent approach to resilience as resilience is not something we can bring to them. The Red Cross Red Crescent can facilitate and assist individuals and their households and communities in their own efforts to strengthening their resilience. Strengthening and sustaining resilience is not possible in all contexts at all times (e.g. due to access or resource issues). Even in these contexts it is necessary to ensure that the intervention is not undermining resilience and rather contributes (even if at small scale) towards resilience. Resilient communities cannot be achieved solely with Red Cross and Red Crescent support. The Red Cross and Red Crescent needs to facilitate support from a range of stakeholders who contribute to strengthening and sustaining resilience including women. There is a need to build partnerships or advocate for support especially in areas, which are not in the core of Red Cross and Red Crescent expertise or mandate, but relevant to the individuals and communities we work with (Omer 2015).


The willingness of volunteering is critical for the success of disaster risk reduction projects. While much literature documents the challenges of participation in communitybased projects, very little has been written on the motivations of those who volunteer, and even less on the incentives and barriers to youth volunteers in less developed countries.

Disasters are on the rise and youths in the communities are the first ones respond. Building the capacity of the community in terms of response, preparedness and recovery are crucial for the successful Disaster Risk Reduction Projects. Comprehensive disaster management and emergency preparedness should be based on the concept of active young people‘s participation in all phases of the disaster cycle. Rather than seeing disaster-affected youth as victims or passive recipients of outside assistance, good disaster management must recognize the value of including them in the planning process.

There is no better resource in a community than young people. It may be easier to obtain funding for projects and related disaster preparedness programs, but without sufficient community resources in place, disaster preparedness and risk reduction are not possible. Resource building enhances community capability and provides positive response to various emergencies; reduce disaster risks, and helps foster confidence, dignity, and resilience. In this regard volunteer work requires further attention to contribute in the disaster management in a more efficient way.

In general, Bangladesh has shown to the world that how cadre of cyclone preparedness volunteers can take the charge to against huge cyclones for more than two decades. Thvolunteers are the key players in dealing with other hazards like floods, infrastructure /building collapse and fires. The efforts to build team contain the same vision to make communities resilient to deal with natural/man‐ made hazards and disaster impact is critical. However, government needs to take volunteering into account in national policy. GoB needs information on the level of volunteering and dependable data to developappropriate strategies and ensure that this resource is properly harnessed and developed. While searching for information and data for this research it was found there is lack of data on volunteers in disaster risk reduction. It is time the country to start initiating a centralized and coordinated data base system for the government to develop policy and strategy and guidelines. This should be carried out in consultation with local, national and international concerned agencies. Further research in this sector is much needed for future planning, designing and implementation of comprehensive disaster management programmes.

The spontaneous response of the youth volunteers who rushed to the disaster scene shortly after the Rana Plaza tragedy struck, reflects the Bangladeshi people‘s inherent sense of empathy to people in distress. The tragic incident once again put to test the lifesaving skills Red Cross youth volunteers who assisted in the rescue of more than 2,400  persons who were trapped under the rubbles. The vigilance and determination of the volunteers to save lives reminds us how the timely and skillful response of the youth volunteers made a difference in one of the history‘s worst disasters and how well they were appreciated by the people they have helped. Volunteers should be rewarded for such heroic work they do. It does not necessarily have to be monetary; there are various ways to rewarding. Promoting their contribution through media, organizing award-giving ceremonies, certificates, sending them to other countries to share their stories and learning etc.

As a development practitioner it was my perception that disaster management is dominated by top-down relief efforts. That the approach assumed youth as passive victims with no role in preventing and responding to disasters. This was changed through my work with Unicef and Plan Bangladesh. I observed youth‘s active role in all stages of disaster. Especially I noticed, the local youth are the ones who responses first when disaster strike. They are highly active as informants within informal and formal communication networks. During 2007 floods Plan Bangladesh worked in Dhaka slums and youth were the key informants about the household status in terms of damages and needs. Their sincere information and opinion lead the response and rehabilitation work highly effective.

Findings from this study indicate why youth choose to become volunteers, what the motivating factors, what inspires them? What are the barriers and what are their expectation from the organization, families, general people and the government. It is important to recognize them and address issues that need attention.

Available time, easy access to clear information about opportunities and what they involve and the recognition that they are doing something useful are important in enabling and encouraging volunteering. It can build on what is known to be effective, for instance if volunteers are most often recruited through word of mouth, a programme could be run to train existing volunteers as ambassadors for volunteering. People prefer tasks they think will satisfy causes important to them. In this relation there should be a mechanism to identify interest, skills of newly recruited volunteers. This could be done during preliminary screening. A checklist can be used to identify their areas of interest and skills and place them accordingly. This may sound simple but in reality it may not be that easy as for an organization dealing with large number of volunteers it may not be possible to assign the each volunteer according to the her or his area of interest and work match the personally relevant motives. However, initiatives need to be undertaken to utilize the skills and expertise in a suitable way to maximize their efforts.

It was great to see the high spirit of the volunteers at the same time this is actually the expected spirit of volunteers. It was touching when they expressed ―We are fortunate than others and feel responsible to contribute in helping the less fortunate or people in crisis‖.

Not many young people feel that way. They are always comparing with others who have more. This noble personal responsibility was obvious among the volunteers although many of them are not from financially solvent families but their attitude towards the destitute is remarkable It is important to respect this attitude towards life as well as nurture this quality through recognizing their positive spirit and efforts by further enhancing their efforts. Sometimes, if their efforts are negatively criticized or disrespected it can damage their spirit resulting negative outcome.

Quality, duration/number and practical training are limited for the BDRCS volunteers as the respondents mentioned. Although BDRCS Training Department is facilitating various training maybe due to the huge numbers of volunteers‘ adequate appropriate training is still to grow. It is important that BDRCS conduct training needs assessment for the volunteers; review their current training courses, course curriculum for further advancement of training. These can be done through a series of workshops, consultations with volunteers, experts, trainers and the concerned authorities. However, this depends on the priority, resources and capacity of human resource development department of BDRCS.

Additionally, the volunteers wished for skill development training in different trades/areas for future career opportunities. My understanding on this issue is that BDRCS may not have the scope of directly providing technical skills development training as this not their area of business. In this regards, there are agencies providing skill development training as well as professional development programmes. BDRCS can facilitate in linking the interested volunteers with technical skill development agencies through a special Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the concerned agencies.

Also, there should be provision of clear understanding among the volunteers what/how the organization can add value to their future career development. Normally, people with volunteer background tend to have better career chances than non-volunteers of similar education and social background. As mentioned earlier volunteer experience has the possibility of serving as ―stepping stone‖ to employment.

The volunteer‘s concern about inadequate equipment and logistics support particularly lack of PPE was resolved at Prize Giving Ceremony for Volunteer‘s of Paturia Doulatia Launch Accident. I attended this important event for the volunteers held on March 30, 2015. PPE is extremely important for personal safety of the volunteers. At the event the higher authorities confirmed ensuring PPE for all volunteers responding to emergency response. It was also ensured that a 20-25 seater van to be provided for volunteers responding emergency. This was highly appreciated by the volunteers. It is good to see how that the organization recognizes contribution of the volunteers by awarding them and responding to their needs. These are very important motivation factors for the volunteers.

In regards to sensitizing volunteer‘s families of their work, initiating social awareness to convince families of volunteers about their work and their contribution can be shared through leaflets, brochures and media. There is challenge in convincing families that the organization can ensure full safety and security of the volunteers doing emergency disaster response work. There should be ways of sharing information about the risks and opportunities in volunteer work. A Volunteer Family Information Document/Handbook can be developed with experts in this area and circulated to all families and in schools.

Similarly, authorities in the organization should know the problems faced by volunteers and ensure friendly attitude towards them from the organization and from the people they work with. This can be done through sharing their problems with concerned authorities and peers.

Similarly, orientation of law enforcing authorities can be incorporated and facilitated by training department through the trainings provided by BDRCS to the members of Bangladesh Police, RAB and Ansar & VDP. BDRCS can take the opportunity by incorporating sessions on volunteer to sensitize the target trainees. Also, brochures, handbooks and other sensitizing materials can be developed by professionals for the law enforcing authorities to disseminate work of the volunteers.

In terms of work environment concerns related nepotism, attitude problems, inequality in workplace were raised. This needs to be communicated to the right personnel through right channels so remove these negative attributes for healthy work environment. The youth and volunteer department of BDRCS needs to handle these sensitive issues carefully to avoid conflict and mistrust.

The leadership in volunteer organization needs to be active in recruiting volunteers, inspire and persuade them to get involved. Each leader needs to mentor their replacement for the continued success of the organization. Volunteer recruitment should be a constant activity and be an important element of the agenda. A planned, organized look of the recruitment package reassures the potential volunteer that the organization is reliable, solid, capable, to put their time and talents to good use.

Visibility of their work is important for their own satisfaction, sense of achievements and informing public about actually what and how they work. A motivated, reliable team of volunteers is not something that just happens; it is the product of a focused, well-planned recruitment and development effort. It‘s not enough to just let people know they are looking for volunteers; they need to give them a reason to want to volunteer for the organization and stay involved. Having a successful brand is a very important part. A strong brand reassures potential volunteers that the organization they are considering is reliable and worthy of their services. Although, Red Crescent/Red Cross Society is well known all over the world for their humanitarian work as well as the volunteers are proud to be BDRCS volunteers. However, there are areas needing improvement. There are various ways of raising media coverage in this era of media, communication and  advocacy. There is huge opportunity in using print, electronic and social media appropriately by utilizing professional expertise in this area.

Many volunteers have given their lives and received injuries in saving other‘s lives. In February 2013, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society provided Life Insurance Policy from the Delta Life Insurance Company to 26 officers and volunteers of CCA project, for the first time in BDRCS. In this regard Chairman, BDRCS Prof. Dr. M. S. Akbar MP informed that BDRCS is taking initiative on how the officials and volunteers are brought under life insurance policy as they usually work in humanitarian ground with high-risk environment. This is remarkable achievement for BDRCS and hopefully all BDRCS volunteers will be covered by life insurance. It was surprising find that none of the respondents knew about this initiative. It is important that every volunteer knows about this and can anticipate the insurance coverage they need. This is an important motivating factor for the volunteers and their families.

There are volunteers who are haunted by the gruesome and horrific conditions of people affected by disasters. Many become mentally and emotionally disturbed and in many cases some these haunting memories continues to disturb them through out life. In the western countries physcho-social therapy for disaster response personnel and volunteers has been introduced. In Bangladesh, this area is hardly a matter of concern. This is highly recommended that volunteers who experience traumatic situation and facing problem psychologically must be provided with counseling and psychological support. From the Rana Plaza incident many volunteers are still suffering from the horrific experience. As previously mentioned, Naripokkho, with supporting partners, has facilitated experiencesharing and psychosocial counseling sessions with rescue workers. It is welcoming to see individuals and NGOs are initiating such efforts in Bangladesh. The DRR agencies should look into this matter more seriously. Strong orientation and training must be provided on how to save oneself physically and mentally in critical disaster response work. Forecasters of stress and trauma in emergency disaster response volunteers needs research to develop guidelines and plans to address this issue. Moreover, after every critical incidence a thorough debriefing for the responders is important to review the work and address coping mechanism from the experience. Protecting own lives should be important in their work.

Gender inequality continues to remain a social problem in the workplace. Not many women were included in emergency disaster response to work. According to the groups this is due to the nature of the work, long hours away from home and lack of receiving skills training in emergency disaster response. The barrier is from both sides; from the families of the women as well organization still not well prepared to involve women in the work due to high risk. The women in the groups expressed high interest in working in challenging situations. They are mostly involved in organizing cultural events, blood donation camps etc. There is no clear guideline in BDRCS in regards to gender roles in volunteer involvement in disaster situations. This is an area the organization can look into  and involve female volunteers in challenging work that they can do. There is high demand of female volunteers in emergency response in regards to providing support to women, children, elderly and differently able people. They are good in proving psychosocial support, engaging children in different activities, looking after misplaced children, adolescent girls, women and the elderly and food distribution along with other work.

It is important to understand and recognize the contribution and economic value of

volunteers. As the IFRC study on Value of Volunteers highlights the heroic role played by the volunteers in saving lives at the Rana Plaza incident and the equivalent economic value of the volunteering services they have rendered. The volunteers themselves should have the understanding about the value of their contribution as well.

Finally, findings from this study indicate high motivation and dedication in the BDRCS volunteers. They are proud to be BDRCS volunteers. Although, they shared constrains in different aspects of their work they are proud of their logo and their identity. They feel, their training, discipline, attitude and behavior make them unique. They are well aware about BDRCS volunteers renowned worldwide for disaster management and other voluntary work. It makes them proud to be part of this famous global team. This is essential for any volunteer, any organization involving volunteer and nation in contributing humanity.

There is a strong call for a bottom-up process in which young people‘s voices are included and youth are actively engaged in the process, and volunteering is a viable mechanism for this. It is now a matter of combined responsibility, mutual action and collective accountability that volunteers are recognized for their contributions. Their needs are addressed for them to accomplish their efforts successfully.

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