Lancement d´une force de bénévoles

Au Pérou, M. Jaime Ulloa, expert en marketing conjointement avec quatre amis ayant de l´expérience en ingénierie et administration a fondé en 2001 “Trabajo Voluntario” un site Web agissant en tant que centre d´opérations pour des activités de bénévolat. Le site recrute des bénévoles et puis les envoie vers les citoyens qu´ont besoin d´aide. « Nous habitons un pays plein de problèmes et le bénévolat nous fait sentir comme une partie de la solution tellement souhaitée », soutient Ulloa.

(English version)

Reported by Freda Wolf de Romero

In Peru, where half the population lives below the poverty line, there will always be plenty of work for the country’s many willing volunteers. The challenge is finding them, connecting them to the causes they care about, and organizing those efforts to make an impact.

Peruvians haven’t been strangers to helping others; one out three Peruvians already do some kind of volunteering during the year (as opposed to only 26% in the United States).  Until recently, many just hadn’t thought of themselves as “volunteers.”  Volunteer traditions thrived among upper middle class urban women, who worked through their church on one end of the spectrum, and rural villagers, whose survival regularly depends upon mutual cooperation on the other. 

That left a great swath of people in the middle.  Jaime Ulloa, a social marketing expert saw the Internet as the perfect tool to help organize this group on a scale that could make a real difference in his country. In 2001, he left his corporate job to start up Peru’s first national service organization.

Together with four friends with backgrounds in engineering and management, he founded Trabaho Volantario, a website that operates as a kind of command center for volunteer activities. The site recruits volunteers and then directs them to citizen groups that need help.  “People enjoy volunteering,” says Ulloa, “We live in a country with huge problems; volunteering makes us feel part of the longed for solution.”

The site was an immediate success. In its first week the site recorded 500 subscribers. Three years later, it had grown to over 18, 000, -- 7,000 of whom were active volunteers. Aside from offering opportunities for training, the site gave visibility to volunteer projects and gave the act of volunteering -- something that people could now sign up for at an Internet café -- a needed boost of cool. 

After raising the status of volunteering, Ulloa also looked to raise numbers by turning to corporations. Large corporations employ Peru’s most highly educated people.  These companies discovered that social volunteering helped boost their employees’ morale and gave them a larger sense of purpose than did commercial goals alone.  It also offered a great way for social classes to mix at the work place, and for executives to get out of the office and into the world.  An added bonus:  volunteer programs helped promote a positive corporate image and public perception.

While volunteering proved to be good for corporate culture, Trabajo Voluntario also found ways in which corporate culture could nourish volunteer organizations. Civic groups could learn something from corporate management strategy about how to best use their volunteer resources. "We realized early on that volunteer programs didn't lack the people needed to achieve social impact, (but) the management skills that a nonprofit needed to make effective use of volunteers.”

So the group started bringing corporate strategy to the not-for-profit leaders through pamphlets and training workshops, teaching how the two sectors could partner together to make a bigger mark.

Looking to the future, Trabajo Voluntario wants to set up hubs in every city in the country and move beyond “just looking for more and more volunteers” Ullao says, “to foster a culture of social responsibility among Peruvians.”


Reporter’s take: How is volunteerism and especially corporate volunteerism affected during economic downturns?