Germany social work since in the 1970s. In

Germany is not a classic volunteering
nation, such as the Netherlands, United Kingdom or the USA. Certainly, in 2008
it was claimed that the growth of the German civil society structure has only
taken place in the past decade1. The German impression of well-being
is primarily considered by the “principle of subsidiarity”, that, in the
provision of core welfare services, gives favourite to Non-for-Profit Organizations (NPO) over public services. In the
principle of subsidiarity, NPOs can entitle
public financial support. Subsidiarity was
developed after the World War II as part of the social legislation and created
the six “peak” associations of the welfare sector in the Federal Republic of
Germany (FRG), which composed constitute the Federal Association of the
Voluntary Welfare Organisations (Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft der Freien

NPO in Germany is a member of one of the
following “peak” organizations:

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1.      Worker’s
Welfare Service (Arbeiterwohlfahrt, AWO)

2.      German
Caritas Association (Caritasverband)

3.      Association
of Non-affiliated Charities (Deutscher Paritätischer Wohlfahrtsverband, DPWV)

4.      German
Red Cross (Deutsches Rotes Kreuz, DRK)

5.      Welfare
Service of the Protestant Church (Diakonisches Werk)

6.      Central
Welfare Agency of the Jews in Germany (Zentrale Wohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in


Traditional charitable societies have integrated volunteers in all areas of
their activities. Nevertheless, volunteering took place generally in the
framework of the “peak” organizations and
turn into more peripheral due to the professionalization
of social work since in the 1970s. In 1990, there was a change in the easy-going
of what volunteering means. New organizations
were been founded, and at the same time,
the “peak” organizations have turned into more volunteer-oriented. Due to the
division of Germany and the separated political systems voluntary commitment
developed in a different way over four decades3.

In the past German Democratic Republic
(GDR) volunteering was most closely
related to “mass social organizations” (gesellschaftliche
Massenorganisationen). Though the GDR constitution assured the people the freedom to associate, all organizations, such
as political parties, trade unions or voluntary organizations, had to accept
the ultimate authority of the Socialist Unity Party (Sozialistische
Einheitspartei Deutschlands, SED). There was no liberation from state control
and party philosophy. Afterwards, local organizations had to join one of the
“mass social organizations” such as the Free German Youth (Freie Deutsche
Jugend, FDJ) or the cultural association (Kulturbund). Yet, these local organizations operated much like non-profit
organizations. Government funds or fees, as well as private aids, supported the
organizations. Moreover, the party philosophy
related voluntary actions or campaigns, volunteering also took place under the
roof of the Lutheran Church. The Catholic Church was less represented due to
the lesser number of members.

In practice,
this has meant that most social services are provided by free welfare organizations, which have the right to claim
public financial support. Volunteering has been projecting in this framework, specifically
in the early years before the NPOs started attracting more and more professionalized (in the 1970s).

There is always a problematic situation with the terminology on the current negotiation about volunteering because of competing
concepts are used in Germany. The traditional term honorary work (Ehrenamt) defines
voluntary work as a commitment informal organisations such as associations,
societies or clubs that is either unpaid or against an expense allowance. Now, activities may be executed in the frame
of formal or informal organisations and comprise sports and recreation, culture
as well as self-help, neighbourhood activities, and activities in civic action
groups. In order to reflect this wide range of actions consistent with the model of a participatory society, the
concepts voluntary involvement (freiwilliges
Engagement), volunteer work or volunteering (Freiwilligenarbeit) have been
introduced4. In the final report of the Federal Parliament’s Study
Commission on the Future of Civic Activities, the term voluntary civic
activities (bürgerschaftliches Engagement) was used to emphasise the specific
character of all activities expected voluntarily. Civic involvement is agreed
as “responsibilities for others” and “becoming active as a member of the

Within the framework of volunteering,
voluntary service programmes have a long tradition in Germany6.
After quite a lot of campaigns controlled by the Catholic and Lutheran Churches
in the 1950s, the ancestors to the
voluntary service programmes were translated into policies in 1964 in the FRG.
The Voluntary Year of Social Services (Freiwilliges Soziales Jahr, FSJ) has
been accommodated by social welfare organisations and offered young people the opportunity
to volunteer fulltime for 12 months in social and health care. The activities involved
to work with physically disabled or
elderly as well as work in hospitals. There was an equal service introduced by
the Lutheran and Catholic Church in the former GDR. Called “Diakonisches Jahr”
(service within the “Diaconia”, the Lutheran church-related social
welfare work) or “Jahr für Gott” (a Year for God, render service in the Catholic social welfare work) it was a chance typically
for women to work voluntarily in the social field. The new legislation in 1994
the Voluntary Year of Ecological Services (Freiwilliges Ökologisches Jahr, FÖJ)
was introduced proposing young people the possibility to volunteer in the
environmental field. The renewed legislation in 2002,
the fields of activity of the voluntary service were improved to culture and recreation.
Today the voluntary service programmes offer young people who finished their full
time schooling up to the age of 26 to link volunteer activities with concrete
practical experience in a professional area7.

development volunteer service weltwärts was founded in 2008 by the German
Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Since 2013 volunteers from developing and
emerging countries have also been able to take part in development volunteer
service in Germany. This intensifies the exchange between people from these
countries and Germany and promotes the networking of all volunteers and
partners in the weltwärts programme. Weltwärts continues to be built out as a
programme for global learning. The places of assignment benefit from the work
of motivated volunteers that can shed new light on things and can also
strengthen intercultural understanding. Many partner organizations that have previously hosted
volunteers from Germany thus become sending organizations
themselves. This contributes significantly to the strengthening and expansion
of the existing partnerships and to equal exchange. The new programme components should be open to a broad circle of
young adults from developing or emerging countries.  By the end of 2016, 840 young people had made use of this
opportunity8. The context of the study is to find integral
challenges of the volunteers from the perspective of Asia, Africa and Latin