“Denmark collapses in a week if the volunteers go home,” one of the participants said recently during a conversation dinner in the grocery store Brugsen.
I had the idea of moving the high school into the village and developing a concept for volunteer conversations. It should take place at a dinner in Brugsen in Denmark. We started up in a small village at Funen.
The conversations should be about volunteering in the village.
Why are we volunteers?
How did we start as volunteers?
What does it mean to be a volunteer?
I acted as a Folk High School Principal who should facilitate the conversation. “A Folk High school is not a place but a way to be together”, I introduced the conversation dinner. “In freedom, equality and fellowship.”
Funny, we discovered that there was never anyone who had asked them about being a volunteer. Nor was it a matter of course that you became particularly acknowledged for what you did. They were just volunteers. And remained that until the dead – as one of the participants expressed it.
At this conversation dinner, Brugsen had invited 6 volunteers to talk about being volunteer in the village.
I do not think they would have come if we had called them firebrands.
But that was what they were – firebrands.
“I cannot even settle with the word firebrand, there was one who said. Feeling it’s burdensome. But I like to volunteer and burn for something. “That’s how the others had it too. “Sometimes you take the lead, sometimes others take the lead. If you are named firebrand, it starts to smell of something else. Then you got to take the lead. Not until you die, but until you burn out. ”
This was how the conversation took place over the dinner at Brugsen. The volunteers could talk to each other, being voluntary, on the other hand, it was clearly motivating and rewarding to all of them.
Brugsen is business, but it is also a volunteer project that started more than 100 years ago. Yes, it’s true. Volunteers started Brugsen. That volunteers meet in Brugsen is quite ordinary. They have, as “species”, created it themselves.
I am volunteer myself.
And have always been.
Volunteer coach at the local gymnastics team was one of the first things I remember. 10 years old. Felt proud of helping.
My parents were also volunteers. They were at boards for various associations. Were instructors at various gymnastics teams. Brewed coffee for various events. Helped to set up plays in various amateur theaters. Sang in various choirs. Was responsible for arranging various town festivals, shows and happenings. Always voluntarily. And my grandparents were also volunteers.
I got it with the breast milk, just like many others did then. It is an important part of Danish culture. This is especially true when you go travel abroad. Denmark is built by volunteers and it created a free nation.
Last summer, I and the family had to realize that I had spent my entire summer vacation on volunteer projects. Without really thinking much about it, and not feeling burdensome at all. On the contrary.
During the summer, I started volunteering at the Heartland festival at Midtfyn where I live. Then I was volunteering in a tent at Denmark’s Political Festival on Bornholm. Then I spent a month building a scene and selling popcorn as a volunteer at H.C. Andersen Festspillene at The Funen Village. After that, I was volunteering to build and run the local youth festival Rudme Festival and the week after I was volunteering in the village’s annual summer college. Then we volunteered or worked non-profit, as we call it, at two vernissages at the Gallery Svinestien, which is a gallery for the local artists. And that was not enough for the summer. Rudme Friskole was voluntarily cleaned, painted and prepared by before school start.
Where does all this enthusiasm and volunteering come from?
Why do we volunteers not get paid for what we provide?
As a former folk high school principal at Ryslinge Folk High School, the history of volunteerism has always interested me. Ryslinge Folk High School is one of the oldest colleges in Denmark that arose during the time when the modern Denmark was founded. In the middle of the 18th century. The colleges became the gathering place for the flower of Danish youth. With common songs and narratives, they became a common identity and a desire to make common good. When they came home from the folk high school, they wanted to work for the common good as volunteers in various associations. The voluntary culture created Denmark we know today. Without the folk high schools, it probably would not be the same. And we, as people, had not been the same.
Therefore, one cannot say that a folk high school is only a demarcated institution located randomly at geographic locations in Denmark. A folk high school is a way to be together. Do the Danes really know what it means? Some of the most important thing we have created is the desire to do something for the community – voluntarily.
Volunteers create things. up. But they also maintain things. Mow the grass. Pack the party down. Wash the dishes. Baking cakes. Teaches the kids and more. And ultimately, they are often the invisible kit that makes it all fit together – the people’s government and democracy.
Many of us do it for the simple reason – that we cannot stop. We feel it is too important.
Someone may not quite understand why we do so when we do not get any money or reward for our volunteer work.
But we will also prefer to be free.
Because that’s what we are.
Therefore, we are volunteers until we die.
And somewhere, we know that there is a spell of truth in the statement: “Denmark collapses in a week if the volunteers went home.”
Tyge Mortensen, Landsbyhojskolen