I started volunteering at university … and I fell in love. Volunteering got me involved in non-academic activities and helped me learn a lot about who I was and who I wanted to be. Today I am a “Big Sister” mentoring a little girl. I am Vice President of the Centre for Autism Student’s Association at university and I’m doing a volunteer internship with a nonprofit board. I’ve done a lot of other things too, because volunteering just makes my life better. The hardest part is getting started. It can be intimidating – especially if the organization is big and well known, but the truth is organizations LOVE volunteers!
When I was younger I was involved in many competitive sports. Now one of my favourite activities is volunteering with the Blues Lacrosse Club. I have helped on the floor with coaching, acted as treasurer and recently was promoted to president. The daily grind can take its toll and volunteering for the club gives me a positive outlet to give back to my community and role model volunteering for my daughters. My advice to a new volunteer is to find something important to you. There are small and large volunteer commitments, find one that is enjoyable to you. Get out and give your time, it feels good.
Two days a week you’ll find me volunteering at the Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE). If I’m not there, I might be down the street volunteering at the Winspear Centre or around the corner at the Don Wheaton YMCA. I arrived in Canada three years ago and knew nobody. I stopped by the restaurant at SAGE one day and thought, “oh, I like this place”. Before I knew it, I had signed up to volunteer. I’ve met new people and after 49 years working as a nurse, volunteering has broadened my horizons. I’ve been an usherette, a receptionist, and at the moment I’m learning to be an aqua aerobics instructor.
I wasn’t always a volunteer. I come from a country where volunteering is not valued. My friends here told me that in Canada people really respect volunteers – so I started volunteering in 2011. I volunteer at the Mennonite Centre for Newcomers, Action for Healthy Communities and Dickinsfield Amity House. It’s a great way to know the community and develop your skills. Now I suggest to friends to volunteer. It doesn’t have to be anything specific. When there are shopping carts here and there at the mall, I put them back – and my kids also do that. Any way you can help people and give back makes you feel better.
Volunteering keeps me involved in the community and there’s a good feeling that comes with that. I think it was my Dad who first taught me about volunteering. He always visited people in the neighbourhood and helped-out the elderly, even when he was 80 something. I started volunteering as an entertainer. A friend and I visited seniors’ centres – sang songs, told jokes and got some audience participation going. Now I volunteer at Seniors Association of Greater Edmonton (SAGE). I run the drop in scrabble group, the GLBTQ group for seniors, and the photography club. Volunteering keeps me active and I feel like I’m doing well.
I firmly believe that volunteering contributes to one’s mental and physical well-being. I act as a volunteer mentor and promote the benefits of volunteering within the Francophone community. Ever since I created CANAVUA, a local nonprofit organization, I have met many others who want to participate in volunteer projects. For me, volunteering is an opportunity to gain valuable Canadian work experience and to develop networks. Networking is definitely one of the greatest benefits of volunteering. I often meet newcomers to Canada who have no knowledge of what volunteering is about – there is an entirely different culture here in Canada.
When I first started volunteering, I was nervous and excited at the same time, not knowing what it would be like. I continued and found that I got more than I gave. I am on the board of a new nonprofit society, Kohkom Kisewatisiwin. The society reclaims traditional roles for grandmothers. I host kohkom circles at my home where we support one another and learn to be resourceful to our communities. I also visit aboriginal grandmothers in hospitals around Edmonton. I have a seven year old granddaughter and lately she says “Grandma I want to be a volunteer.” It’s important to show them the way to live their life.
I’m nine years old. I like to do things for other people, like helping them carry groceries. With Girl Guides we often find ways to help in the community. I love to see that I’m making a difference when I help people and it makes them smile. Everybody needs help once in a while. I even help my Dad when he volunteers at events. Volunteers have to want to help and be interested in giving their best. Most of all, you must be open and just willing to have fun.
Volunteering is the happiest three hours of my week – every week! Currently I teach ESL classes at Edmonton Mennonite Centre for Newcomers. It’s not just about language I also introduce newcomers to the customs in Canada. This is not my first volunteer role. A few years ago I went to India for four months with One International. We taught informal school curriculum to street children in Mumbai. I volunteer because I feel privileged to have safety and the freedom to choose how I want to live. I’ve got free time. Why watch Netflix every day when you can go out and do something to help another human being?
It’s ironic how I started volunteering at West End Seniors. My wife was already volunteering there as the senior fitness instructor. Coincidentally, the President of the Board at the time was a former employee from my working days. The centre was setting up a planning committee and they asked me to help out. It was work I had done before, so I joined in. Now I do just about anything to do with maintenance along with one other volunteer. It’s something to get up in the morning for. If you’re starting out volunteering, try and tag along with someone else who’s already doing volunteer work.