- Poland, Lodz
|Level of Schools|
|Type of Schools|
|Number of Schools involved|
|Number of Schoolheads involved|
|Number of Teachers involved|
|Number of Students involved|
|Number of Parents involved|
|Number of External Partners involved|
The program “Volunteering Junior” is led by the Children University of Lodz University of Technology and has been operating without any stops since 2012. The program involves volunteers, older than 12 years, in organizational assistance during the so-called large lectures of Children University. These children are involved in the creation and co-creation of all the activities with the help of members of the Children University. Through those activities junior volunteers increased their self-confidence and teamwork skills, developed the ability to evaluate own actions and give feedback.
The main objectives of the inspiring practice are to develop such features of children as:
responsibility, reliability, openness, readiness to take decisions, ability to learn one from another, readiness to take challenges, openness to changes.
We would like to prepare our volunteers for their first job and to show which features are important for employees. We also would like to shape in young people the responsibility for their activities, openness in work and towards the tasks and the ability to pay attention to what is happening around them. The soft skills such as ability to cooperate and accept tasks are also vital together with the approach of openness combined with the development of empathy.
The volunteers' task is to work from 3 to 5 Saturdays in a semester, which involves organizational assistance during the so-called large lectures of Children University.
From the very beginning of LUD, the regular students of the Lodz University of Technology were volunteers. In 2012, a child attending LUD wanted to become a volunteer, which became the inspiration for the creation of Junior Volunteering. At the beginning, all children, regardless of age, were admitted to the program.
An age restriction was introduced in 2016 together with a rule that the child had to participate in LUD before and should be at least 12 years old.
Every year the improvements were introduced:
- volunteering interview
- statements for children and parents
- the number of volunteers has been limited to a maximum of 25 per year
- lower limit of volunteering duration: one year
- integration training for volunteers
- specific tasks for each volunteer scheduled for the whole day
- accounting volunteers for their work, specific expectations
- volunteer supervisor chosen from junior volunteers
- tutors for new junior volunteers
They should be divided into activities for LUD and for Volunteers. Definitely it is really beneficial for TUL to accept former students of LUD as volunteers since they know how it functions. They know very well what the expectations of LUD participants are and they know how to behave because they were in their place. The volunteers admired the volunteers when they were the participants of LUD. Now, when they are volunteers themselves, they try to fulfil their tasks as well as possible which influences positively both their work and functioning of LUD. Now the group of volunteers is coherent and the members have already acquired sufficient soft skills and are better prepared to look for a job and to apply for it.
Effects for Junior Volunteers:
- increasing self-confidence
- improving teamwork skills,
- better understanding of strengths and weaknesses,
- increasing the ability to signal needs,
- development of understanding to fulfill obligations,
- increasing the willingness to take initiatives,
- a sense of participation in important activities,
- developing ability to evaluate own actions and give feedback and evaluative criticism.
The Volunteering influences the professional experience. One of our team members applied for Volunteering during FIFA U-20 World Cup. She was accepted and became a leader of a team consisting of 20 people taking into account her experience and soft skills.
Volunteers become friends and continue relations
Junior Volunteering is an example of a good and inspiring practice taking into account how the volunteers work and how their work is organized. It is a great way for the participants to get to know the working environment, develop personality and substantial knowledge at the same time.
The role of adults is very limited. The LUD Director is in charge of the formal aspects of volunteering, including the compliance with rules, ethical issues and safety, including OSH. The ideas for organization are imposed by children and are created by children.
When given the proper opportunity, children become very open and creative and during the Volunteering Program the children’s ideas are implemented and developed, discussed and evaluated
What is more, the very idea of volunteering was also created by a child who wanted to become a volunteer during the lectures of LUD.
Children who are team members are more and more open to become volunteers in different places making a desire to help and serve others a natural part of their life.
What is more, the headmasters of schools also say that they notice the changes in children who are volunteers. They are more open to new initiatives and more eager to work for the common good. They are also more likely to become the leaders and to get engaged in school life.
In this example of good practice, the co-creation plays a very important role. It is based on the concept that children are in the heart of everything and they are the managers of all the activities. The activities are planned and then implemented by them. Children are themselves involved in the creation and co-creation with the members of Children University of all the activities. They exert the impact on the shape of all the activities, they fully influence every aspect of the activities. What is more, the volunteers also participate in numerous workshops when the elements of team-building are also greatly enhanced.
The methods of observation and experience are used. The work of volunteers is observed and when any problems related to the knowledge how to behave are noticed, this situation is analysed in groups in the form of workshops. The drama method is applied to act the situation and analyse it thoroughly. Thanks to such activities, we protect our volunteers and we do not put them in danger, making them face unknown situations for them.
The fact that all the activities of volunteering together with the very organization of it, are a real innovation. Although it is not new to involve the children in the different activities, the possibility to develop their ideas from the beginning is really new.
In the projects all the decisions are taken by the groups.
The group is of course guided by the LUD Director supported by the Supervisor but the decisions are always discussed. What is more, in many cases, more than one option of doing is analysed which also teaches the participants how to make the decisions effectively.
Mutual learning is a core of the activities. While exchanging ideas children learn quickly. They set examples to the colleagues in groups sharing their hobbies and passions. What is more, the implementation of solutions proposed by children greatly increases their self-confidence and believe in own strengths. It also increases their engagement and that is why it is so important to listen to their suggestions and to implement them when possible in order to make children understand that they can really cause something and make something happen.
The volunteers are minors in the majority. However, there are also senior volunteers who are adults professionally active. The teenagers are the core of the activity, but at the beginning the volunteers were aged from 7 to 70 years old. At this stage, the teenagers are in majority, some of them are 30 and so so-called VIP Volunteers who are aged 70. In the last group, it is necessary to mention former Rectors of Lodz University of Technology, the President of the City of Lodz and the provincial governor.
The Volunteering Program is open for all children who are interested in it regardless of their background. They may come from all the social groups.
This inspiring case involves many ethical aspects. The Volunteers are guided on daily basis which behaviors can be considered ethical, how to behave in the ethical way, how to prevent the behaviors which are not ethical. They also discuss the ethical issues among themselves as they need to judge sometimes whether a behavior of somebody was ethical or not. The Director of Children University and the Junior Supervisor of the Volunteers discuss these issues regularly.
Among the children which participate in LUD there are also children with disabilities. Therefore, it is extremely important to teach the volunteers how to stay vigilant and calm and to call for an adult immediately. Children are very frank in their reactions, they lack experience, their reactions are spontaneous and they assess other people referring to themselves without taking into account the differences of people they may meet.
During their work, the volunteers have regular contacts and interactions with employees of LUD, with lecturers and with adult volunteers as well as with the University authorities. They all treat them very seriously and in the partner manner.
The Volunteers often discuss what skills are needed on the local labour market. They discuss what companies operate in the region and they plan when they would be employed in the future.
In the project all the volunteers are equally important. The process of taking decisions is very democratic. They always discuss what solution is the best, why they should opt for it. They also treat the volunteering as a common good for which they are all responsible being a very important part of it.
The system of coaching is very present in the project all the time.
The LUD Director and Junior Supervisor play this role. They discuss all the activities on the regular basis with participants and they provide regular feedback.
What is more, the interesting phenomenon of peer-coaching can be also observed. Children exchange ideas among themselves and they act as coaches one to another. It is very positive since they boost their motivation to achieve more and more when they compare with other children who are more active in some fields.
The communication process of the volunteers is very much based on information technology. The volunteers communicate via social media such as
WhatsApp and Facebook. They also share pictures and interesting materials via these channels.
The cooperation with partners has been always very smooth and fruitful.
The decisions are taken by LUD Director but they are always consulted with partners.
At the stage of organizing Volunteering, the regular meeting with the headmasters of schools were organized to discuss the relevance of such activities and the analyze the real needs of both schools and pupils as far as open-schooling is concerned.
During more than 10 years we cooperated with the different external partners. Their role was to share their experience on volunteering and on conducting the trainings. We benefited greatly from the experience of The Youth Palace (center of culture) which also organizes the volunteering for the youths. We also organized the meetings of volunteers’ supervisors and we were learning one from another. We also used an opportunity to have our volunteer trained by the experienced couch from The Youth Palace. This training was related to the aims of volunteering and the role of the volunteer.
Other external partners, not always with an institutional character are usually small companies that organized trainings for our volunteers on soft skills and integration activities. They helped to improve the cooperation within the group and boosted team-spirit.
The Junior Volunteering gives joy, passion and youth. It gives us a completely different approach to our activities.
The project is implemented by the office of LUD and by minor volunteers who form the project team. The problems which appear are discussed and analysed on daily basis and the new solutions are introduced. All the team members are equally treated and all are equally important.
During many years of existence the volunteering has undergone many improvements. The nomination of a young volunteers supervisor who is also a team member has given outstanding results. It helped to integrate the whole team and boosted team spirit
The role of LUD Director:
- To provide the general frameworks for the project implementation,
- To check whether the organization of activities fulfils safety rules,
- To organize supervision process. The role of young volunteers’ supervisor:
- To inform team members about the organizational details,
- To organize the division of tasks and daily activities of volunteers during lectures of LUD,
- To evaluate work on the daily basis giving feedback,
- To integrate the group.
The volunteers receive regular feedback on the quality of their activities and performance. Together with LUD Director and Junior Supervisor they discuss the progress which is achieved. It is also discussed what corrections and improvements can be introduced to enhance the volunteer development.
Upon request, also parents of children involved receive feedback. Sometimes, also the headmasters of school ask about the progress of their students.
Documentation of learning processes could be an important tool of development and sustainability. Taking into account that the significant feedback is given by the volunteers themselves, it was decided that the oral form will be the most suitable one. However, one the feedback is requested by the headmasters, the description of the progress made is provided in the written form.