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Clergy lost role in pushing for volunteerism

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

THE HAGUE – Foundation De Zonnebloem, which has its roots in a Roman Catholic constituency, boasts in its current sixtieth anniversary year a volunteer base of 40,000 people, making it the largest in the country. The group’s volunteers help make life a bit brighter for those experiencing limitations and handicaps, hence the name Zonnebloem (Sunflower). At an anniversary symposium, various aspects of volunteerism were discussed by experts in the field. One of the topics concerned changing dynamics caused by the fast rise in the number of families in which both partners work fulltime, making it harder to gain new volunteers. Secularization of Dutch society was also identified as a factor. Gone are the days when clergy told parishioners to pitch in at Zonnebloem, which now may look to human resource personnel in large firms to assume a role in rating applicants for community involvement through volunteerism. While things have changed in the Netherlands, noted one speaker at the symposium, with 3 million volunteers the country is faring better than, for example, Italy where lowly paid (illegal) immigrants are filling the void left by dwindling volunteers.