I Hope that Volunteer Movement will Never Stop - Ints Teterovskis
We ask Ints whether he is happy with what his volunteer movement has achieved. “Yes, I am, for the most part. When I was starting all this, I knew it was something out of the ordinary for Latvia in terms of organisation, and that it would not be easy. So I decided that my first major task was to achieve that, in ten years, it should be clear to people what the term “volunteer” means, and that people should associate it with something positive. If they do, I will know that my work was not in vain.” He concedes that the process is just in the initial stages, although very much has already been done – yet there still is a lot to do. “We have approved our volunteer programme, and more than 4,000 volunteers have signed up. There’s a lot going on, work on the Law on Volunteers is currently continuing in the Saeima and the parliament will review the legislation in the second reading now. We keep looking for new ideas, some of the past ideas have been very successful, and it appears that the movement will continue after the European Capital of Culture year is over.” Ints adds that the exact name of the movement and the location for its head offices will be decided by the end of the year. “I’ve met most other organisations that run volunteer activities in Latvia to see if what we are doing is needed. After all, the volunteer programme we have at “Riga 2014” works differently from other such programmes elsewhere in Latvia. But I saw while meeting with the other organisations that, yes, our movement has to continue.”
Ints Teterovskis tells us he is very happy at the response his movement has generated, at every volunteer willing to contribute, at the fact that a lot of people have come forward who originally thought that being a volunteer was of no interest to them. “It’s no secret that many people thought – no, working for free is not for me… But now it’s clear that people had to have the opportunity to be active. A very interesting side effect, which I could not have foreseen and was not anticipating, is that about sixty volunteers have been able, thanks to the projects where they were involved and meeting the organisers, to find either a permanent job or are at least be regularly invited to participate in other projects and take temporary jobs. Of course, this proves that volunteer work can be useful in many different areas.”
What is the reason why these people joined the volunteer movement? “Certainly, one of the reasons is that 2014 is the European Capital of Culture year, and the fact that the volunteer work was never organised at such a large scale before. The tradition of volunteering is steadily becoming increasingly popular in the social sector – at medical institutions, animal shelters and elsewhere, there is significant volunteer activity in these areas. But in culture, to be frank, it has never been happening at such a vast scale.
Therefore, I believe, many volunteers thought it a serious reason enough to offer their help in organising cultural events.
Likewise, our activities, such as at the World Choir Games this past summer, were very productive and intensive. That is when all those who follow cultural news noticed that they could be not just members of the public who buy tickets to an event, but also co-organisers of an event. It was the other major opportunity that motivated many people to become volunteers.” Ints reminds us that it may even be considered a duty for a European Capital of Culture to foster volunteering.
Turns out, there are also international volunteer exchange programmes, and Ints Teterovskis has also studied how it is organised in other European Capitals of Culture. That is why, when asked if the Capitals of Culture to come will have something to learn from Riga, he says: “In terms of sheer numbers, no one before has come even close to what we have done. It is true, though, that not every Capital of Culture hosted the World Choir Games or a marathon, which we both helped to organise and that both were part of the “Riga 2014” Programme. These were the two largest events in Riga this year, involving over 500 volunteers each day. So I do think that the next Capitals of Culture will have something to learn from us.”
But what Ints is particularly happy about is that volunteers could register at a website that they themselves have suggested and created, where they can share experience and inform organisations from other countries – Germany Bulgaria, Russia – about their movement. “Everybody had a high opinion and were very pleased with the website,” notes Ints, adding that this is a very special way how residents could register for becoming volunteers. Ints adds that his volunteer movement also co-operates with various senior organisations, for instance, RASA (Riga Active Seniors’ Alliance). “Although the members of RASA did not quite register at our website and did not create their profiles there, I was meeting them on a regular basis to find out which projects RASA representatives would like to be involved in. If the organiser of a given project and RASA agreed so, senior citizens also participated.” Ints emphasises that more than 3,700 users are registered at the website, but the total number of volunteers who participated in the Capital of Culture events was about 4,000. “There were people who did not want to register, to participate in earning points, they simply wanted to be volunteers – and they had that opportunity.”
What about the registrations for the event on the 5th of December where the best volunteers will be honoured?
“Initially it seemed that not many would respond, but as the deadline was drawing closer, we began to receive really many applications informing us about volunteers who deserve every praise and gratitude. Even more importantly, there was a serious assessment of the candidates, including by local governments, to make sure that the event is not just a formality and that we honour those who truly are the best of the best.”
Ints Teterovskis tells us that, so far, organisations and individuals have submitted a total of 239 applications nominating 265 volunteers from 46 different municipalities. “In my opinion, that’s really not bad for the first time!” he says. The applications were evaluated by a jury (names of the jury members will not be revealed for the time being), and what Ints knows at the moment is that each jury member had to select seven best candidates for the final. “Maybe somebody knows already which volunteers have made it to the finals, but I know nothing about that,” Ints says laughingly, adding that the names of all finalists are in sealed envelopes that will not be opened until the afternoon of the 5th of December. And there will be a special programme for the event on the International Volunteer Day, to say thanks to all who attend. It has been decided by now that at 11 a.m., a special urban environment object will be created at Ķengarags Promenade at the Daugava River, which will be on show for the entire month of December. Ints hopes that at least 500 volunteers will participate. After that, the best volunteers will be honoured in a ceremony at the Riga Sporting Arena at 2 p.m., and the most supportive local governments will be thanked. A concert dedicated to the volunteer movement and the best volunteers will start at 5 p.m., featuring several popular musicians, including “Musiqq”, “Astro’n’out” and others, and other popular personalities who will act as volunteers this time, so the audience to which the event is dedicated – about 3,000 people in total – could enjoy the event to the fullest, Ints says as he briefly describes the scenario for the event on the 5th of December. He goes on to say that, starting the 28th of November, all volunteers registered at the “Piedalies section of the website should log on to confirm their participation in the event on the 5th of December.