I've been thinking a lot about volunteering and volunteerism in the last few months as it has always been a very important part of my life. I work for a non-profit organization (Big Brothers and Big Sisters) that works with volunteers, matching them with mentees to provide 1:1 support, guidance and friendships for children who may not receive those things elsewhere. I am lucky to have found a job doing something I am so passionate about and really believe in and that keeps me learning and on my toes each and every day.
This summer I spent some time volunteering for various festivals in Winnipeg and had a great time participating in the Fringe Festival, Jazz Festival, and Kids Fest. For me getting involved in my local community, sharing things that I'm excited about, and being part of something have always been priorities. I've most recently got involved volunteering with the Elizabeth Fry Society of Manitoba and have been blown away by the variety of programing offered and how much I have enjoyed my two very different volunteer positions (Women for Change, and Recording Stories) which I will talk about in a future post.
Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to spend some time at Siloam Mission volunteering with a few of my co-workers at their breakfast drop-in program. We had decided that as the holiday season approaches instead of giving gifts we wanted to spend some time together getting involved in our local community. I shared my excitement on my Twitter account, and much to my surprise was asked to speak about my experience this morning on CJOB with Karen Black. Social media for the win! Go to 7:45am and you will be able to hear me speak with Karen Black from CJOB about volunteerism, and my experience with Siloam Mission. Why I Volunteer?
For me volunteering is all about connecting with other people on the basic human level. It’s about being a part of something, getting involved in my city and my local community, and giving back. It’s about recognizing that I am so blessed to have had the opportunities in my life to pursue my dreams, to think about what makes me happy and drives me, and to go for it, and about the gratitude I have for the world. I am always blown away by how many amazing organizations exist in my little city (let alone the rest of the world) and how much they depend on volunteers to do what they do, and I am always excited to become a part of it. Why Volunteer?
1) Meet likeminded people. I've mentioned it jokingly to some of my friends, but if I was not already in a committed, supportive and satisfying relationship with someone I am lucky enough to have in my life I would meet people volunteering. Meeting someone volunteering helps you figure out some of the stuff that you can’t if you're looking online, meeting at the bar, or through mutual friends. You'll have similar interests, similar values and as a bonus most volunteer organizations typically have some sort of screening process.
2) If you have a roof over your heard, can eat three meals a day, an education, and a caring support made up of friends and or family members you have a lot (A LOT) to be thankful for and happy about. Volunteering is a great way to ‘pay it forward.’
3) Its a low cost/no cost way to spend time with your loved ones and get engaged with an organization you care about.
4) It helps build a community of support and pride within the city/community/neighbourhood/world that you live in.
5) Growth and learning. Develop your personal ability to be a leader, develop new skills and fine tune the skill set you already have, receive training and guidance, develop interpersonal skills be a part of a team, build confidence, and put your passion in to practice.
And it’s FUN! I could go on and on...and on...and on about how influential volunteering has been in my life, about all of the lessons and values I have been able to take away, about how empowered I feel, how I have been able to get practical experience developing my skills and about how I have met so many inspiring and powerful role models over the years both here in Winnipeg, across Canada, and across the world but perhaps I will save that for another post.
I'll be so bold to say that if you give yourself 6 weeks to commit fully to an organization that you are interested in you will not be disappointed. Volunteering has a way of getting under your skin, into your blood, and once you start I doubt you'll be able to stop :) Often all it takes is 1 hour a week, which we all have!
If your interest is working with children, the environment, the immigrant population, animals, policy based or hands on, local, or global the opportunity (and the need) is there to get involved.
I'm rooting for you Winnipeg,
Here are the links to some of the organizations currently close to my heart:
http://www.lutheranworld.org/lwf(Honduras and El Salvador)
Environmental Movement of Olancho (MAO) (Honduras)