Anybody can be a volunteer!
Shabnam Hilal
17 December 2019

People who are unemployed or facing other challenges are often thought about in terms of what they cannot do, instead of giving them equal time to think about what they can offer. Quite often they have amazing sets of skills and experiences and are truly inspiring individuals who have learned how to overcome their limitations. It is important to constantly remind ourselves that the core of inclusion is recognizing the capabilities and not the employment status of individuals.

Suitable volunteering positions

When designing a suitable volunteer position, it must be kept in mind that volunteers might be unavailable as soon as they find a job. In fact, they are obliged to do so if they are receiving social welfare payments. When designing the roles, offer flexible volunteer roles that will fit their new work schedule with minimal levels of responsibility.

Barriers to inclusive volunteering

There are many barriers that prevent inclusive volunteering from occurring more often:

  • Lack of awareness about available volunteer positions (they often do not know they can volunteer and if they do, they do not know where to start)
  • Feeling they would not be welcomed in an organisation as volunteers because of lack of self-esteem and confidence
  • Previous negative experience of trying to become a volunteer
  • Image of volunteering as an activity for certain groups of people only, or based on a traditional ‘helper and helped’ model
  • Fear of being asked to do too much
  • Fear of prejudice
  • Fear of losing welfare benefits
  • Very formal recruitment process, perceived almost as a job application process


The following questions may help when planning appropriate roles for unemployed volunteers:

  • What motivates unemployed volunteers?
  • Why would they want to get involved in volunteering?
  • How much time do they realistically have, between looking for employment, attending courses and other responsibilities?


Shabnam Hilal
17 December 2019
Shabnam Hilal studied at Bishop's College Colombo. She will be pursuing Law at the University of Colombo. She is currently employed at the Centre for Poverty Analysis as a Research Assistant. She is also serving as the Secretary of the Rotaract Club of Colombo Uptown. She is passionate about Transitional Justice, Literature and International Affairs.  


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