I have been making presentations on youth engagement, and just recently one with the Canadian Cancer Society on the value of Volunteerism, so I decided to expand on that and talk about why it’s important to volunteer, as well as some of my experiences. I started off volunteering by example of my family, and Sikhism’s values of helping others. I volunteer because it’s a great way to make a difference in people’s lives, and to give back to the community. I will not only be helping the organization I am volunteering for, but more importantly those who rely on the services of that organization. It has allowed me to apply my skills and talents to impact the community, and motivate and inspire others. Volunteering has also provided me with many valuable opportunities and has shown me that I can do things I never would have thought I was capable of doing. There are volunteer jobs for everyone. It may take a while to find the right job for you, but it is worthwhile to explore, because everything that you do until you find that job is helping develop you as a person. In these tough economic times, many organizations are relying on the help of volunteers. There are many volunteer opportunities- whether you are interested in animals, art/culture, disaster relief, education, health, animals, addictions, multiculturalism, sports, religion, or something else. In volunteering there are two main ways that it will help you: personally and in terms of your career. From a personal perspective, volunteering allows you to grow as a person- learn new skills and talents, discover more about yourself, try new things, meet new people, get to know and connect with the community. I have learned countless skills from volunteering, including leadership, interpersonal, teamwork, problem solving, organizational, time-management, how to promote events, and the list goes on! Volunteering allows us to try new tasks, such as creating a committee, planning an event, or teaching a language, which keeps things interesting, and allows us to continue to learn. Volunteering allows us to learn to work with different people. I have learned how to work with elders, young children, and people in various life situations. Working with different people can make you understand their point of views better. Thus, Volunteering allows you to gain a new perspective and understanding of the world. One of my volunteer experiences was being a peer tutor in high school, and it helped me learn to adjust my expectations according to other peoples’ skills levels- their strengths and weaknesses. It was a valuable and rewarding experience as one of the students I worked with, who was failing at the time, went on to get excellent grades and become a tutor himself. In volunteering we explore strengths, develop new interests, hobbies, experiences, and meet people we would not otherwise meet. The more I volunteered the more opportunities arose. One opportunity can lead to many others, for example I met someone through volunteering that referred me for a Youth Dialogue on sustainability, and someone I met there gave me the opportunity to be a youth representative at a BC Youth Congress event in Vancouver, which led me to the opportunity work with the Fraser Basin Council, and the City of Prince George, and be a youth leader in sustainability for our region. I got to be a youth representative in sustainability processes such as Smart Growth on the Ground, and myPG, and make a presentation for city council as well as at various climate action events. Volunteering can also improve confidence and self esteem. I used to be very nervous when I talked in front of people- my knees and hands used to shake, but it eventually became something I love to do because I became comfortable speaking in front of very large groups of people. This confidence came from volunteering to make presentations. Volunteering helps you feel good. If you are going through a hard time, it can help you get your mind off things and act as a sort of therapy to find new purpose and move on. You feel a sense of accomplishment. As a volunteer you can be an agent of change, spreading hope and positive energy that “revives your spirit,” and gives you a sense of empowerment, and independence. It makes you feel satisfied, and lets you appreciate what you have. The health benefits include: low level of stress, better immune system, and better sleep, among others. Volunteering can also challenge you, and make you step outside your comfort zone. One of my favourite things in volunteering is networking, and meeting people that become your friends, your mentors, your inspiration, or perhaps you will be their role models and will do the same for them. I encourage you to volunteer for things you really have a passion for- for me it is volunteering on sustainability initiatives and working with youth. Volunteer work is a lot of fun when you love what you are doing. Volunteering can help you fight for a cause you believe in, learn about a cause, change people’s lives, and take action, help friend/relative, get to voice opinion about it, and make use of resources you otherwise would not have access to. Volunteering has allowed me to learn about various issues and causes such as Cancer and Diabetes. Because of volunteering I have developed an interest in sustainability, and the future of our city in terms of that. Volunteering helps me leave my mark in the world .You can become a role model to others, old and young, to show them, that each person really can make a difference on the lives of others, and that through volunteering we can learn a lot. In terms of career: Volunteering helps you explore a career early on, build your resume, learn how to do interviews, build career-related skills, find out if a job is suitable for you, learn about organizations from the inside, improve your job opportunities (and can lead directly to job opportunities), obtain letters of reference, and fulfill career/education requirements. Volunteering as a Junior Volunteer at the hospital has helped me gain work experience for a health-related career. It has helped me learn about the hospital environment in a way I would not have otherwise been able to experience. For school, it can help you get credit for a class, gain entrance to university or college, and get scholarships (major factor in many scholarships). You can also learn a new language, which will also improve career opportunities.
Many organizations also have great recognition programs, they hold lunches/dinners, or have awards for their volunteers. Also there are awards available for volunteers. For Youth under 18, you can apply for the Canada Day Youth Award if you have over 100 hours of volunteer work. Cities also have their own recognition programs. Prince George has the Youth of the Year award for youth under 18, and many other volunteer recognition awards for others. Your work as a volunteer is really appreciated! To look for local volunteer opportunities, just ask your local volunteer center- ours is Volunteer Prince George- www.volunteerpg.com . Join their email list, which sends emails monthly with a long list of opportunities. To start a volunteer project visit http://volunteer.ca/files/youthworks.pdf for some excellent tips. Volunteering is a lot of fun and can also be something you do with friends and family. You Can make a difference!