Community & Current Events

Volunteering 101

Author: Canadian Living

Community & Current Events

Volunteering 101

From picking up litter in the park to collecting donations for the local children's hospital, most of us would agree that volunteering is a wonderful way to give back to the community.

For other women, that is.

You know, women who have the time to spare. Not women like us, who, between organizing play dates and conference calls, rarely, if ever, have time to ourselves, let alone time to give away -- so we're excused, right?

Not so fast, says Marlene Desboisbriand, president and CEO of Volunteer Canada, a national organization devoted to promoting volunteerism across the country.

She says volunteering your time is a lot easier than you might think, and the rewards can be priceless. A veteran volunteer herself, Desboisbriand offers some suggestions on how you can get involved.

You're already a volunteer
You may not realize it, but you're probably offering your time and services in numerous ways already. "You'd be surprised at how much volunteering you're already doing," says Desboisbriand. "Getting involved with coaching and organizing children's sports, carpooling -- all these things you do, you're volunteering."

Get started
Most big cities have volunteer centres, where they'll create a profile based on your interests and skills and put you in touch with an organization that could benefit from you. "Think dating service, only for volunteer opportunities," Desboisbriand says with a smile. You can find the volunteer centre nearest you by using the Volunteer Canada website.

Find your cause
"When people ask me where they should volunteer," says Desboisbriand, "I always tell them to find something they're passionate about and go from there. Whether you care deeply about children, the environment, the arts, poverty -- there are lots of organizations you can approach." It may take a few attempts before you find a volunteer opportunity that fits, she warns, but once you find something that you enjoy being a part of, you'll be able to commit.

Be honest
"It's really important to be honest about how much time you can give," says Desboisbriand. "That way, the organization can find the right role for you." And, she says, it really doesn't matter how much or how little time you have. Anything helps. Maybe you can commit to Tuesday evenings each week or maybe you have a free Saturday three weeks from now. If you enjoy the time spent and you've found the right volunteer fit, you might just want to repeat the experience.

Multitask
Volunteering doesn't have to mean time away from your other commitments -- it can become a part of them. Desboisbriand recommends checking out your personnel folder to find out if your employer provides flex time for volunteer work, since more and more workplaces, led by bigger firms and corporations, are doing just that. Another growing trend, she says, is family volunteering. "You get to spend time together, while teaching your children profound societal values." There are some great group volunteer activities, such as visiting senior citizen homes and cleaning up parks. By taking the kill-two-birds-with-one-stone approach, volunteering suddenly becomes a lot more viable.

So there you go. Volunteering no longer falls into the "wouldn't it be nice?" category. You can do it. And the causes you'll be helping won't be the only ones who reap the benefits -- don't forget that good-all-over feeling that comes from being selfless. "You really do get so much out of it," says Desboisbriand.

Read about one author's volunteer summer vacation.

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Volunteering 101

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