Volunteering – Romanticism takes over the system

“It is not enough to be compassionate. You must act.”

I can’t help but wonder what Dalai Lama had in mind when he made the statement. Was it on an impulse, as a part of a greater conversation, or did he dish out the words to set the context to a greater good?

Whichever way, with all that is going on around us, it seems that we have taken the message in its literal sense. The COVID-19 pandemic, especially the second wave, which exposed the healthcare infrastructure (or the lack of it) of India, also exposed a positive side in us.

The entire society seems to have jumped in to exhibit their desire to ‘act’ and help others.

And when we act, that too without any apparent selfish gain, we feel we are answerable to no one.

So what if we have no background in the work that we are helping in? Even when it is something as serious as providing critical care? Or as serious as hoarding life-saving medicines that we keep to give out without checking prescriptions?

After all, we are entitled! We are ‘volunteers’!!!

Yes we applaud the youth who are for once coming outside of their virtual world to help in the real one. No, they will still not sit next to us and share their day, but they will be the first to extend their help to whosoever needs it.

Yes, it’s all great… but… there is always that word… BUT…

Where are those who should take them through the processes and its restrictions?

The processes, medical or otherwise, have been drafted by stalwarts. Experts.

Experts, who, other than experience, have also put in a lot of analyses, experimentations etc. before drafting the rules. Experts who keep reviewing the processes and updating them from time to time.

Where are those who should tell the good-willed comrades that these processes need to be given their due? We have no right to bypass them just because we have suddenly decided to take up the noble cause of ‘volunteering’. We have no right to put all those years of specialized study through the shredder at will.

Where are those who should tell the helpers that even organising  information, access to trained personnel, facilitating a response, in itself is a lot of good for those in need? We do not always have to do the task ourselves.

Ignoring the norms laid down by the system just may harm more than do good.

And yes, we understand your frustration. The system is slow. And it is slow because it has its checks and balances. It is slow because it has to cater to a greater good, not only the one at hand. And of course, it is slow because there are those few exceptions who are into corrupt practices.

So, no, we do not need to carry on with our inherent habit of personally controlling everything that we engage in.We are not those specially entitled who can do what we please, particularly when we have chosen to volunteer.

There should be no audience for “It is for free. It is voluntary. Now you have no right to question me.”

So, irrespective of what the popularity-hungry opinion-makers tell you, irrespective of the number of times the media channels glorify you, irrespective of the praises the person in dire need showers on you, the next time you tell me

  • You administer oxygen just because you carried the cylinder;
  • You keep multiple cylinders at home because you are staying ready for emergency calls;
  • you procure life saving drugs (or even antibiotics) without prescriptions because you distribute them for free;
  • you carry loads of medicines without a drug license because you want to give it to those in need;
  • you supply food in mass scale (free or paid) without an FSSAI certification;
  • you raise funds in personal savings accounts without formal registrations and audits;

I will keep telling you… YOU ARE A CRIMINAL… albeit a noble one, yes, but still… A CRIMINAL!!! Nothing more, nothing less.

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