Development of volunteering programs in Croatian parks

Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection, within the framework of the “EU Natura 2000 Integration Project – NIP”, is carrying out activity “Volunteer programs in Croatian Parks”. Through a public tender this activity was subcontracted to Association Sunce in cooperation with TBWA/Zagreb.The objective of this activity is to support public institutions for management of Croatian national and nature parks in the development and promotion of volunteer programs. During the preparatory phase of the NIP project a large potential for the development of volunteering in protected areas was identified. Developed volunteer programs will allow for the systematic inclusion of interested groups and individuals in activities that public institutions are conducting in protected areas and thus ensure better promotion of parks, greater support for the work of public institutions, and ultimately contribute to achieving the objectives and purposes of protected areas.

In 2008 as much as 176 000 people volunteered in the national parks of the United States for a total of 687 500 working days. It is estimated that the number of volunteer working days in 2016 will amount to 1.25 million working days. 
In order to establish volunteer programs Sunce will organize trainings for representatives of public institutions for management of protected areas and support them individually in program development. Volunteering programs and related public events and produced communication materials will be promoted through a central web site developed exclusively for this purpose. Implementation activities began in April 2014 and will last until September 2015.The establishment of volunteering system will:

• contribute to the educational role of parks,
• strengthen the contribution of parks in building a successful system of nature protection in Croatia,
• enable better promotion and visibility of parks,
• promote the role of parks as centers of nature conservation,
• contribute to the development of a society that is aware of the importance of nature conservation and biodiversity,
• improve the relationship between public institutions for the management of the parks and the local community,
• create additional specific skills for public institutions,
• develop the potential for new ideas and new energy in park management.

29,235 people volunteered in Croatia during 2013 and generated a total of 1 652 965 volunteer hours which amounts to 206 620 working days! 
To have a successful volunteer program in a protected area is a long-term profitable investment which tells us that public institutions are well organized, transparent, efficient and dedicated to nurturing the values of nature conservation, and that it makes maximum use of available resources to achieve the goals of protection and promotion of natural assets. 
Satisfied volunteers will become ambassadors of parks and nature protection, and international volunteers will become the ambassadors of Croatia.