The goal of nationwide recognition for the volunteer activity is to spotlight people who have voluntarily contributed to the development of Estonian society and supported volunteer work, and to pay respect and acknowledge them for it. The official ceremony has been held around International Volunteer Day (5 December) each year since 2005.
This beautiful tradition was started by the Open Estonia Fund. From 2007 to 2012, the event was organized by MTÜ Vaba Tahe (formerly called the Vabatahtliku Tegevuse Arenduskeskus) and since 2013, by Kodukant. The patron of the event is the Estonian president.
Recognition is given in three categories:
- Volunteer of the Year: acknowledges volunteers for consistent contributions made to the development of Estonian society;
- Volunteer recruiter, supervisor: acknowledges NGOs or people (supervisors) who have consistently supervised volunteers, provided encouragement and involved them;
- Company or organization: acknowledges companies or public sector institutions for promoting their staff’s voluntary professional activities in NGOs.
Nominees for the awards can be sent in from 10 September to 10 October each year through the Volunteer Gate. To the present time, 364 awards and mentions have been handed out.
The awards are supported by the Endowment for Civil Society and the Ministry of the Interior.