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FOREIGNER IN SLOVAKIA

Blog: Volunteering - France vs. Slovakia

It's always hard to compare two very different countries. But comparisions help us understand ourselves better and we can learn from one another.

The situation on volunteering are very different in France and in Slovakia. The two countries have a different history, so volunteering developped differently in Slovakia and in France.

For example, Slovakia has a law on volunteering. It's not the case in France. The establishment of this law in Slovakia has multiple reasons, but one of them as that there was a need to define what is a volunteer. This concept is not as commonly known as in France. This is why the work of volunteer centers is so important. In Slovakia there is a real need to raise awareness on volunteering, what it is and in what way it is usefull for the society. Indeed, there are a lot of people who do not refer to themselves as volunteer, however, after some explanation they realise they actually are volunteers. The unfamiliarity with this concept comes from the history. Under Communism, civil society was inexistent, so it developped again only after the fall of the Iron Curtain. In France, there is a tradition of Welfare state since the 19th century that fosters the development of a civil society. The law on nonprofits organizations goes back to 1901. 

To look at some numbers, in 2011, 32 percent of the French population over 15 years old was engaged in voluntary activities compared to 27.5 percent of Slovak citizens older than 15. The difference is not that big, only 4.5 points spearates the two countries. To increase the number of volunteers in Slovakia, regional volunteer centers were created in addition to a virtual website that exists since 2007. This summer, Trenčin and Trnava openned their own volunteer center. Others can be found in Bratislava, Banska Bystrica, Nitra, Prešov and Košice.

In France, France Bénévolat is the national organisation to which all the volunteer centers belong. It has more than 80 regional centers spread across the territory. Its mission is to promote volunteering,  connect volunteers and organisations and to help associations with the management of their volunteers by providing them with trainings. Slovak volunteer centers have the same goals. In addition, they also help organisations of all type (NGOs, companies, public organisations) to set up new volunteer programs.

The main difference between France and Slovakia is that French volunteer centers all depend from the same organisation, France Bénévolat. In Slovakia, each volunteer center is a different association. To help them work together and with the government the Platform of Volunteer Center and Organizations was created in 2011. Since its creation, the Platform helped creating 3 volunteer centers. It's good to see that volunteering is growing in Slovakia.

By Claire Billon-Grand, EVS volunteer at the  Bratislava Volunteer Center .

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