An Exploration of Volunteering as a Path to Healthy Youth Development
Keywords:volunteerism, positive youth development, developmental assets model, interpretative phenomenological analysis, Sri Lanka
Volunteering is commonly observed from the standpoint of the service recipient, and the effect it has on a volunteer’s growth and development is often overlooked. Though quantitative studies, mixed method research, and surveys have explored the impact of volunteerism, very few look into its connection with healthy youth development. Furthermore, it has not received the academic attention it deserves in Sri Lanka, given that the country is globally ranked 1st in volunteer engagement. This qualitative study sought a psychosocial approach to explore and gain insight into the effects of volunteerism on the personal and social development of volunteers. Data collection was done through semi-structured interviews conducted with 6 (young adult) participants (4 females, 2 males), with at least 2 years of experience volunteering at an educational or psychosocial setting. The data were analysed through interpretative phenomenological analysis, which took a hermeneutical stance to explore the lived experiences of volunteers. The analysis revealed 2 superordinate themes: The first, a “journey of growth,” emphasized the development through exposure to different realities and the discovering of career-related interests. The second, “acceptance, support, and validation,” illustrated the importance of sociocultural influences on volunteerism. The findings of the study provided insight into multiple implications including the role of supervisors and volunteer organizations in facilitating a healthy volunteering experience, the significance of sociocultural beliefs and philosophical drives in volunteerism, and the possibility of using volunteering as a standardized youth development program.
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