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The benefits of Volunteering: good for your association, good for you

Several studies have confirmed that getting involved in an association gives individuals a sense of personal achievement1. It creates a sense of well-being and may even be good for your health2.

Just like any other non-profit organisation, professional or charitable, the CBTI needs a team in order to get work done. In anticipation of the Board of Directors elections next March, I have plunged – head first – into a few of the many jobs and articles relating to volunteering. The aim? To briefly highlight the benefits of providing your time for free in order to, I hope, help people realise their true calling.

Volunteering can be defined as a keen person’s commitment to give some of their time, energy and imagination to an “external” cause – an outpouring of generosity that begins with a spur-of-the-moment action and has long-term benefits.

Experts3 have defined six main categories that motivate volunteers: values (solidarity, selflessness, idealism), understanding (of a field of activity or cause), improving self-image (self-esteem, cognitive development, sense of purpose), protection (combating stress, relations), career (entering a sector, networking) and social (the need to belong, interacting with others).

If you know anything about psychology, you will have no doubt made the connection to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, the five-tier model of human needs4: once we have satisfied our needs on a physiological (breathing and eating) and material (resources, housing, health) level, we all want to experience the feeling of being supported first by a circle of close friends, then by a social or professional network that defines our place and our reason for being. This sense of belonging helps us to develop self-confidence and makes us feel like we are respected and appreciated. Moral values are also vital. Volunteering, which makes us feel like we are doing something about the world around us, is an obvious way to satisfy these values. This, in turn, gives us a sense of fulfilment.

Let’s be clear: age is not a determining factor here. Young members who think volunteering is an activity reserved for professionals reaching the end of their careers are mistaken. In addition to the aforementioned benefits, volunteering helps individuals to acquire new expertise and learn a new skill set. This is a great benefit to those just stepping foot in the world of work: teamwork and the ability to question, to reason or simply to co-exist are all vital professional skills. With this in mind, volunteering is a great way to continue training and gain experience.

Very well, you say, but in specific terms? The Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters offers a multitude of opportunities to achieve these aims. Let’s take two examples (of many): further training and representation. The first enables us to learn more about the gaps in and the aspirations of the professional market. You can get involved in further training, meet experts in various domains and gain an insight into electronic tools for organising webinars. You can also learn how to organise workshops, manage time, put practical contingencies in place… I could go on. Representative activities, which centre around our presence within interprofessional bodies, provide the opportunity to exchange with many of our counterparts in other liberal professions (lawyers, architects, accountants, etc.), to address other professions publicly during meetings and to develop a stance and defend the interests of our profession. In short, the experience is as enriching as it is rewarding.

And yet we struggle to find volunteers to help us do what we do. Do you want to show your support to sworn translators? Do you like to write? Do you have organisational skills? Do you have a passion for IT? Join us! We will find a way to utilise your strengths. Our only condition: you need to enjoy working in a constructive team and have some spare time to help the association, and thus the profession, to develop.

The festive season – and the time for lasting New Year’s resolutions (!) – is fast approaching. This is perhaps the opportune time to reflect on your potential involvement in the association, be it on or off the Board. Who knows what could happen? The possibilities are endless. In any case, we make a great team that enjoys a good working atmosphere and functions effectively in two languages.

I will be available to respond to any queries, should you have any. On behalf of the Belgian Chamber of Translators and Interpreters, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope 2019 brings you all you wish for in your career, your personal life… and your association!

Guillaume Deneufbourg
President CBTI-BKVT

1 DANSAC, C. et al., Renouvellement et rajeunissement des instances bénévoles dirigeantes : Rapport terminal sur les travaux de recherche menés dans le cadre du projet REBDA, 2013.
2 RAMOS, R. et al., Busy Yet Socially Engaged: Volunteering, Work–Life Balance, and Health in the Working Population, Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 2015.
3 CLARY, G., & SNYDER, M., The Motivations to Volunteer: Theoretical and Practical Considerations, Current Directions in Psychological Science, 8(5), 156–159, 1999
4 MASLOW, A. H., A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50, 370–396, 1943