Introduction to Volunteer Victoria’s Community Youth Leadership Summit

 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change this world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”  – Margret Mead

 I was reminded of this quote in so many ways this year during the first week of summer. Not only is it a personal favourite – I have it on a sticky note on my laptop – but it truly encompassed the energy and enthusiasm of Volunteer Victoria’s Community Youth Leadership Summit participants to a T. Regardless of whether the youth were on the United Way’s Impact Tour or engaging in a round table discussion about human rights as they relate to interview questions, I kept finding myself thinking, these kids are going places.

 Here at Volunteer Victoria the Youth Team works in a variety of ways to help youth throughout Greater Victoria connect to their community through meaningful and strategic volunteering. What is strategic volunteering you might find yourself wondering? Essentially it’s walking the delicate balance beam of receiving as much as you give through volunteering; the best of both worlds. While volunteering in and of its self is an amazing gift and something we at Volunteer Victoria strive to promote both professionally and personally, we also believe you should leave feeling rewarded for your hard work and dedication. In a lot of life’s facets this would come in the form of a cheque, a dollar amount to show appreciation for your time and energy. However, in volunteering the benefits can look like a multitude of things and finding the one that suits your needs the best is a goal the Youth Team aims to meet. For example, some volunteer for the outstanding training agencies can provide, others for free admission into events or festivals, and some give to their community through organizations that have helped those around them. Despite the fact these benefits will look different for everyone and mean something unique to each volunteer, there is a constant –any one you choose or need the Youth Team can help get you there.

Easy. Right? That’s what we thought too.

 Throughout the Youth Team’s involvement in the community we have noticed the benefits and rewards to volunteering that we think are strategic (volunteering at a hospital to increase your application to med school and knowledge of health care) are sometimes being lost in the race to complete a set amount of hours in order to graduate. While the completion of this is important, we have started to see youth volunteer in amazing ways at a variety of places but only reap the numerical hour value from their work rather than the life skills and knowledge they have gained in addition. The need for practical hands-on training regarding the volunteer sector:  how to get involved purposefully and how to present these educational pieces of wealth in a professional way became apparent. In an effort to meet this Volunteer Victoria created the Community Youth Leadership Summit – a week long program aimed to give greater meaning to the word ‘volunteer’ by not only showing youth how volunteering can enhance their skills and help in achieving their dreams but how to excel at showcasing their attributes through workshops, presentations and volunteering.  

We were so fortunate to work with 10 outstanding youth who really exemplified Margret Mead’s words through their dedication to the process and their willingness to learn and challenge themselves both individually, as a group, and in the community at large. Part of the program involved the opportunity to write a blog post for Volunteer Victoria, this is simply the introduction to the incredible literature to come.

 These youth reminded us within the Youth Team that the work we do collectively, both within our office and as a community, for youth matters. The ripple effect these youth who ‘graduated’ from this program will have locally and globally, in our minds, will be instrumental. Their ideas and opinions are relevant, important and meaningful. They will change this world, we just were lucky enough to help along the way.

 So here’s to them, the 10 fantastic youth who took a week from their sun-filled summers to work with us in learning how they can walk that balance beam in the not-for-profit sector, how they can have the best of both worlds, and how they can highlight themselves for the outstanding emerging leaders they are. They are pretty wonderful and we hope you enjoy getting to see a glimpse of each one through their writing. Thank you Cammy, Sara, Leah, Melody, Brooke, Eva, Holly, Kathy, Angus and Hisashi, you made the start of our summer the best week yet. 

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