Volunteering is currently practised by over 6.5 million Canadians as a way to give back their time, energy and skills to their communities and those less fortunate. In return, volunteering offers a sense of confidence, self-satisfaction and an opportunity to meet new people in new environments. For youth, volunteering also provides valuable experience for the job market and a chance to develop new communication, leadership, organisation, teamwork, time management and social skills.
The 1997 National Survey on Giving, Volunteering and Participating from Statistics Canada found that over 65% of youth volunteers who were unemployed believed that their volunteer efforts would increase their chances of finding a job. One third of all volunteers believed that their volunteering had given them new skills that could be applied directly to the workplace.
With these statistics in mind, and with many secondary school boards across Canada making volunteering a component of their curriculum, Volunteer Canada has renewed its commitment to demonstrating both the link between volunteering activities and real work experience, and the overall importance of volunteerism in the community.
Here are some of their suggestions for individual and group volunteer projects related to issues you may feel strongly about that would also give you the opportunity to gather some valuable work experience and new skills:
Passionate about protecting the environment?
Develop and promote a recycling program, launch an educational campaign about keeping local waterways healthy or collect recyclables and donate proceeds to a charity that is important to you.
Want to fight poverty?
Gather clothing from neighbours, help out at a local shelter, collect grocery coupons to give to the local food bank, organise a food drive or start a breakfast program at the local elementary school.
Interested in promoting animal welfare?
Walk dogs and pet cats at your local animal shelter or foster an animal (or a mom with babies) while they recover from an illness or injury for a few weeks until they are strong enough to return to an animal shelter for adoption.
Want to support children?
Become a walking buddy for a youngster, tutor a younger student who needs help, offer a bicycle safety event or plan a pre-teen dance.
Concerned about the elderly and disabled?
Paint a mural on the wall at a long-term care facility, teach an elderly person how to use a computer to email their grandchildren, plan a spring clean up day for older or disabled individuals, hold a talent show at your local nursing home, help a disabled individual with running errands or getting involved in a physical activity like swimming.
Looking for other ways to help your community?
Start a community garden, porter at a hospital, donate blood or your time at a blood donor clinic or organise a fundraiser with the proceeds going to a charity or disaster relief effort that you want to support.
For more ideas about volunteering in your community and information about Volunteer Canada's new youth volunteer program Volunteering Works, go to www.volunteer.ca/volworks.