Hateg UNESCO Geopark is using the energy and creativity of the community youth through the Volunteer and Ambassadors programs involving them in decision making
The volunteer program is designed as to be mutual beneficial for both the young volunteers and the host organisation – the University of Bucharest. For the last, the main benefit is the deep community involvement, but also the contribution to the organisational capacity
The main reason we created this volunteer program is to support local community development. We achieve this in three ways:
1. The volunteer work is used to develop tourism infrastructure, events, educational activities which all contribute to local welfare by creating new opportunities,
2. Investing in local youth, in their training and experience, we invest in the community’s future generation,
3. Raising awareness for problems like geoheritage conservation, sustainable tourism development, risk management, climate change and others on the Geopark’s agenda received a boost along with the volunteer program.
The activities done by the volunteers cover a large area, from guiding to project management and organising events. It is very important that the volunteers are not only informed and consulted but they are actively involved in decision making.
The best volunteers are trained annually to become Geopark ambassadors. This is an elite group, having the information and skills to represent the territory in any context national or international.
A dedicated volunteer coordinator
Evidence of success
The results for the Geopark are tens of projects, actions and events carried out by the volunteers.
The youth group of volunteers and ambassadors is now the driving force behind all geopark actions.
The results for the community can be expressed quantitatively: If we take into account only the 16 volunteers who received the VoluntPass certificate, their work hours, relative to the Romanian minimum salary, value 12.000 euros. This is the equivalent of the work done by these 16 young persons
The most difficult challenge was to change the meaning of the term volunteering, which has been greatly deteriorated during 50 years of communism. Older generations see volunteering as patriotic work (forced labour for the Party), but fortunately the youth is more open and prepared
Potential for learning or transfer
Empowering people from the community to act in the support of their own territory has a lot of benefits for the organisations working in protected areas. Whether is about youth, as in this example, or other age groups, if the locals are aware of their importance in decision making, the awareness and the practical results will greatly increase.
Volunteering in protected areas is not to be understood only in the case of other people coming inside a community to plant trees or collect litter. The most motivated volunteers are those coming from inside the community.
This can be achieved in any protected area with communities willing to get involved.
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