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Why Do We Give Back To The Community?

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Refilwe Ledwaba and Kutlwano Hutamo

“There can be no greater gift than that of giving one’s time and energy to help others without expecting anything in return” Nelson Mandela

As a volunteer-based organisation, we have always wondered what motivates people to volunteer. Does one volunteer for that good feeling that comes from doing something well? Or is it because one is led by a greater purpose to give time and/or resources to others that are in need? We ask ourselves these questions particularly during this time when we commemorate Madiba and the sacrifice that he made to ensure freedom for all in South Africa. The essence of Mandela Day – take action, inspire change, and make every day a Mandela Day – is more important now than ever before as we face a lot of challenges in our country. In this piece, we share what Mandela month means to us and why we volunteer?

What is Volunteerism?

Psychology defines volunteerism as “voluntary, deliberate service to others over time and without compensation “. A key element of volunteer behaviour is that the person freely chooses to help and has no expectation of pay or other compensation. The volunteer “behaviour must include service work, not simply a donation of money or goods. This service is a long-term, repeated service, such as giving time weekly to help at a local hospital. The volunteer service is the only service if it benefits others who want or need help” (Psychology research and reference, n.d.).

What Motivates People to Volunteer?

Having defined what volunteerism means, we wanted to delve deeper into what motivates people to volunteer. Various researchers have studied this, and they give four main reasons why people volunteer

  • Value expressive motivation is when someone volunteers because they are motivated by the values that they hold dear to them.
  • Other people volunteer because their motivation is to learn about a particular problem or a group of people or to gain understanding or knowledge about a certain subject.
  • Social adjective motivation is when a person is driven to volunteer because they are encouraged to do so by family, friends, or social demands; and
  • Lastly, other people are motivated to volunteer because of the career aspirations that they have. As an example, a learner might want to volunteer to increase their chances of getting into medical school or a student may volunteer to increase their chances of getting a job in a specific field.

What Volunteerism means for us?

“My reason for volunteering was mainly driven by value expressive motivation. I grew up in a community that practised UBUNTU and Volunteerism. I am reminded every day that I am the person that I am today, because of those community values. So, I wanted to go out and do for others what the community did for me. In addition, we often go out wanting to change people’s lives and it is our lives that change. As much as I have given my time voluntarily, giving back had a tremendous impact on my life and opened opportunities that I never knew existed. Mandela day or month for me is just a reminder to continue to “take action and inspire change” - Refilwe Ledwaba.

“My reason for volunteering is hugely based on the premise of value expressive motivation. I could never stand by and watch other people suffering. I couldn’t help everyone the way I wanted to and so, I decided that I should do what little I could and hopefully it would add up to the greater whole. Volunteering has taught me a lot. I learnt to listen to people when they tell me their needs and rid myself of any preconceived problems, I thought a community had and coming up with ineffective solutions. I have also learnt that there is much, much more that still needs to be done. This brings me to what Madiba day means to me. The day means that we can spread the word even more about what GFPA Foundation does and identify potential collaborators that could help us make a bigger impact. Further, it shines a spotlight on other causes that we as GFPA Foundation can get involved in - Kutlwano Hutamo.

GFPA Foundation’s Value of Volunteerism

We are not certain about Madiba’s motives for serving the people of South Africa. However, we are convinced that he was driven mainly by value expressive motivation. It went against his core values to see the oppression of people and decided to give of his time and service to end that oppression. 

Regardless of the reason for volunteering, the time that one takes to help those in need is essential. It makes a significant difference in people’s lives and that is the reason why one of the GFPA foundation ‘s core values are VOLUNTEERISM, in that we put service before self, and we put UBUNTU into play. Generally, Ubuntu is translated into English as “I am because we are”. It talks to the bond we share as human beings, the necessity of supporting one another, of sharing, and lifting as we rise. 



Psychology of research and reference. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2021 from


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