Let your passion guide you – overcoming barriers to volunteering
Fayas Mohamed
3 March 2020

This was back in 2018. I had just got myself a camera. Nothing fancy but good enough to indulge in my new-found passion for photography. I had registered with UN V-force, so I would get to know about volunteering opportunities. And then came one for photography at the upcoming food festival celebrating International Refugees Day. Since I have always taken a serious interest in the refugee cause, this seemed like the perfect thing for me. Luckily enough, I got selected to be one of the photographers.

Now, it might seem like a straight forward affair, but for someone who wasn’t surefooted about what skill he could bring to the table, for someone who isn’t exactly the most peoples-sy person, for someone who had just got settled in Colombo and started working, it was anything but one. So I am going to talk about those sort of people in this piece.

Ever since I joined UN V-Force, I have done one thing more than volunteering itself: inviting people to join UN V-Force. Family, friends, and even work colleagues. Though an impressive 10,000+ volunteers are registered with V-Force, there are loads of people unaware of it and the opportunities it presents. Then there are ones who feel quite passionate about volunteer work but find it difficult to accommodate such a commitment for some reason or the other.

I am going to present succinct accounts of conversations I have had with 3 such people who got to know about V Force through me. I asked them 3 questions, and those were:

  1. What draws you to volunteer work, and how do you think you can contribute?

  2. What is/are keeping you away from being an active member with V Force?

  3. What suggestions do you have?

“I have always been volunteering. In school, in my village, in campus. I am a full time mathematics teacher, I am the secretary in our village Youth club, I was the President of Muslim Majilis of our campus. So you see, leadership, volunteering are quite second nature to me.

How can I contribute? Well, I am good at managing people, speaking to them, delegating duties. You can say simply say I am good with people. As for something more sophisticated, I have Bachelor’s in Applied Mathematics. It could come in handy.

Only thing is I am not fluent in English or Sinhala as my first language is Tamil. I am not totally hopeless, but it definitely has something to do with me not being super enthused about volunteering with UN and such. It would help if the coordinator could converse in Tamil.”

– Anfar, 27, is from Mannar and a graduate from the University of Jaffna.

“I want to volunteer because it will look good on my CV, and of course it is good to volunteer, isn’t it? I am willing to make myself useful in some way or the other. I am good at conducting surveys, logistics – can do IT stuff too.

I am working in a managerial position with one of the biggest privately owned companies in Sri Lanka. It is an office job with office hours. Sometime I have to work overtime also. I also have to travel home (to Kandy) every weekend. Taking leave to do volunteer work is not really practical. Since this is a private owned business, the higher management is not too invested in CSR work. If there’s a program like the one in John Keells where volunteer work is internally recognized and all, then it would be something I would be able to do.”

-Darshana, 26, is a business management graduate.


I saw one of the UN programs with kids. I think that sort of thing I would love to do. Otherwise I am not really good at interacting with people. I’ve got a bit of social anxiety, I am afraid. The things with me is I work at an online tutoring company that works on UK time which means my office hours are 12 – 9. I am not sure if they (V-Force) would be willing to accommodate me.

If there were provision for people with issues like social anxiety when volunteering, it would be so much better. Like when they send those Google sheets, perhaps they can give us some opportunity to note down if any considerations have to be made.

-Anchana, 23, is an online tutor working at a BPO.


If the people who volunteer are representative of the people and the causes they volunteer for, it would, in my humble opinion, only help volunteering be much more effective in achieving its goals.

Fayas Mohamed
3 March 2020
Fayas Mohamed is an environmentalist. He is a passionate believer of the 2030 Agenda in finding solutions for issues plaguing the world. He is currently exploring how GIS could be utilized effectively in the process of sustainable development. He is a skilled photographer and is very passionate about table tennis.


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