Looking for a healthy hobby? Volunteering at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Victoria could be for you!

This blog post is written by Julia-Anne Morris, Volunteer Victoria’s Youth Programs Manager

What do you think of when you hear the word volunteer? Do you think of making a difference? Developing your own skills? Being happier? According to researcher Allen Klein, “research has shown that people who volunteer live longer.” So, while you are setting your goals, plans, or resolutions for 2014, why not think about your health and how volunteering can support a long and happy life?

At Volunteer Victoria, we have many wonderful non-profit member agencies that have an incredibly wide and diverse pool of volunteer opportunities just waiting for someone like you to find one that suits your needs, goals, and interests. One agency in particular is hoping that you can be the difference in a child’s life, and improve your own life at the same time.

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Victoria (BBBSV) is an agency “that has been providing support to local families and helping children in our area reach their full potential for nearly 40 years. Our programs are preventative in nature and rely on the simple principle that each time we pair a child with a mentor, we start something incredible – a life-changing relationship built on friendship, trust and empowerment.” You might have heard of BBBSV, but did you know that they have an In School Mentoring program? I personally didn’t until I started my third year practicum with them. Instantly, I knew that this program was one of the best for a broad spectrum of people wanting to volunteer.

The In School program is a great option for the beginner or experienced volunteer. The volunteer, Big, and elementary school student, Little, spend one hour each week together during the school year. Bigs and Littles spend time on school grounds doing an endless number of fun activities including arts and crafts, reading, sports, baking, games, puzzles, and just chatting. The Littles are referred by their school to the program, ensuring that those kindergartners to grade six students who can truly benefit from the program aren’t missed.

The positive feedback and success stories from both Bigs and Littles who have participated in the In School Mentoring program is endless. One grade three student was matched with a Big Sister after her mother passed away. They met weekly during her elementary years, and then became a community match when she graduated to her next school. Today, the Little is in her 20’s and is still in touch with her Big! The Little says that her Big supported her through school, foster care, university applications and scholarships, and many other aspects of growing up. She told our colleagues at BBBSV that, “My Big Sister has known me longer than any other adults in my life –she truly is like family to me.”

So whether you believe in resolutions or not, now is a great time to jump on the wagon of re-assessing what keeps you healthy, and how you can Start Something Big by volunteering with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

Engaging Our Youth

Written by: Julena Breel, Youth Programmer

Recently the Clayoquot Sound Conservation Alliance held a panel event called “Clayoquot Conversations: The Legacy and Future of Clayoquot Sound” at Alix Goolden Performance Hall. Lead by Elizabeth May speakers included veteran environmentalists, reporters and representatives from Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Band Council. During one of the responses a panel member was quoted as saying, “I have come to hate parks; in my opinion they represent what is wrong in society. You see something so blatantly beautiful and you make it into a National Park as to protect it. National Parks are just proof our civilization not only doesn’t trust itself but can’t control itself.” Having never thought of this before it resonated deeply. Why is it that we can’t just see nature and understand it to be sacred, why do we need a wooden sign displaying “BC Parks” for us to leave it untouched? To me if the leaders of today see it as important then who do they not trust? A look around the room gave one potential answer – our future generations, our future leaders, our youth. There was not a soul to be seen under the age of 25, leaving myself and a few scattered emerging professionals in the room the youngest in attendance.

Given the Clayoquot Sound protest occurred in 1993 when the majority of whom we define as ‘youth’ in BC were either not born or still potty-training it is not surprising that the auditorium was not packed with Twitter-pro’s and selfie-gurus. However, it does leave the question, where are they? Is it that they are simply uninterested in such things, do they not know it is happening or is the event format one that does not appeal to them?

Youth face challenges that can be similar no matter what the generation – body image, job security, and struggle for independence – however passion is not one of them. Youth are some of the most driven, self-motivated and zealous people in Greater Victoria. The Youth Team just recently received an email from one of our clients who has been having a tough time finding work lately. He even is coming up against some barriers in the volunteer sector. Because of such he thought he would put his energy into something he enjoyed and so, created a small aquaponic system. In laymen’s terms this is an aquarium/vegetable hybrid; you grow veggies on top and as you water them the liquid is filtered into the aquarium below. It’s gorgeous and labor-intensive. If that is not appreciation for the environment and our personal carbon footprint then what is?

It is not passion that hinders youth from attending and gaining new tools and expertise to step into the future with – they care, and their hearts are in it. So what prevents the physical presence?

Well, unfortunately this generation has been raised in a flashy, quick, visually appealing era. If you can’t catch their eyes with signs and facts, it can be even harder to catch their hearts. Leaving the auditorium it was clear that while rich in content and knowledge the presentation didn’t leave one carrying many tangible take-aways out the door. Although the purpose of the event was to shed light on the past in hopes of changing the future it seemed to get stuck in history and the shift to present-day came too late. For youth, that simply won’t cut it. Digestible history facts paired with attainable personal shifts works wonders for the generation that survives off 140 character messages and instant updates. #SadIKnow.

There is a wealth of information to be left for youth from previous generations and it asks a lot of them to change formats that feel comfortable and dependable to embrace ones whose foundations are rooted in quick and striking however the Youth Team argues is might be necessary to not only keep those inter generational lines of communication open but allow them to flourish. Our youth are passionate and keen and if we as a community can meet them where they are at the opportunities for our invested projects are endless. 

A Method to Destroy Stigma

In July 2013, Volunteer Victoria’s Youth Program hosted the first Community Youth Leadership Summit! Part of the week was reflecting on volunteering, the community, and the Summit in the format of a blog post. Cammy was one of our awesome participants who put her feelings, thoughts, and ideas into a great blog post for us to share with you!

            Everyone is unique, it’s a fact well known, and we all have different backgrounds and come from different situations, though at times similar, still unique. When speaking of Canada, a topic that commonly arises is the diversity. Well, the Community Youth Leadership Summit was no different. Walking into the Volunteer Victoria office Monday morning none of us knew each other, our ages ranged greatly, we all came from different schools and parts of town, some not even from the province or country, and we all had different stories. All of us, facilitators included had a unique way of seeing tings and brought separate things to the table.

            What made me different? My background. I am a youth in a form of government care and at one point or another, been in most forms of government care there is – whether it be youth agreement or foster care. I represent a large but silent, widely unknown and misunderstood population. It’s an unknown population mostly because those included in it don’t dare tell anyone that they are in care for fear of facing the stigma against us. The stigma and stereotypes created stem from a lack of knowledge in the general public so they believe that these youth are trouble, no good, going nowhere, among other things.

            Now what exactly does this have to do with Volunteer Victoria or the Community Youth Leadership Summit? Well, simple. Throughout the week we have been taught many great reasons to volunteer such as: to make a difference; to give back to the community; to gain skills; it’s a passion; or it could be used as a stepping stone into your future, as well as many more. Another reason could be to help reduce negative stigma.

            Using volunteering as a method to make an impact on stigma or stereotypes can work in many ways. One of this being that if you happen to encounter a person trying to force the stigma upon you, volunteering and giving back to the community tends to prove otherwise. Another options is to be an advocate. Say you get talking with another volunteer about each other or family history comes up, you might tell them a little bit about your experience in care or explain what it is, and in very little time, that will be one person more who knows a bit of truths about foster children. One less person who may believe the stereotypes and listen to the stigma, and they may go tell another. Before you know it, the domino effect takes place and even more people have knowledge. Ion my experience as a founder of the Victoria Youth in Care Network, telling people who know nothing, even the littlest thing has had a large impact on them. It is a great way to bring awareness to your community at the same time as helping to make the community a better place. This can work for many things, youth in care is only the example I used as I write that I personally have experienced.

            Volunteering is a great experience no matter your reasons. You can find opportunities for pretty much anything you may be interested in doing or trying. Another huge reason volunteering is fantastic is you get the change to meet people you may not otherwise have gotten to, you make fantastic friends, and that makes it all the more fun and worth your while. 

Twitter Essentials for Non-Profits

The following post was written by our Manager, Training and Outreach Leanna Hill. We are so happy to be welcoming her back to our team after her year away on maternity leave.

Just a week back from my year long maternity leave, and I find my Twitter skills have become a bit “rusty”. As I prepare to write this blog post,  I head to our Volunteer Victoria Hootsuite account and try to post a tweet…It’s harder than I think it will be! Trying to apply what I’ve learned in the past, I search for “non-profits” to figure out what the current hashtag (#) naming convention is.

Does this all sound vaguely familiar, but confusing? Is it utter gibberish to you? Are you on the verge of entering the Twitter-sphere? Maybe you’ve signed up for a Twitter account for your organization, but haven’t yet gotten much out of it. Maybe you’re just thinking about it.

The truth is, Twitter is here to stay (well, in social media terms, anyways) and it’s actually pretty useful once you get going.

Twitter is used by non-profits in a number of ways – to engage supporters, share successes and stories, find relevant resources, and to support other non-profits. Of course, the outcomes are what we’re interested in when investing in a new tool. Will Twitter bring in donors? Will it help you find volunteers or attendees? Well, yes. If used correctly. 

What our organization has found, and is backed up by what other social media bloggers say,  is that Twitter is a tool that supports and builds relationships and information sharing. It doesn’t replace a fundraising or marketing strategy, but it certainly can support one. There is a knack to using Twitter, and the scene is regularly shifting, but once you learn the basics it makes a lot more sense (and can even be fun!).

If you could use some hands-on learning about Twitter, we’re happy to be offering a Twitter Essentials for Non-Profits workshop on Saturday, October 19th from 1:00pm-4:30pm. Check out our website for more information and to see some of the tweets that help us to build community: www.volunteervictoria.bc.ca

Pat Robertson – Valued Volunteer with Broadmead Care Society

The following guest blog post was written by Kelly Sprackett, Coordinator of Volunteer Services at Broadmead Care Society, in praise of one of their long-time volunteers.  Thank you Kelly, for recognizing and sharing Pat’s impact on your organization!


Pat Robertson

Pat Robertson - one of Broadmead Care Society's valued volunteers.

We are proud to say that Pat Robertson has been a volunteer with Broadmead Care Society (and before that, our predecessor Tillicum and Veterans Care Society) since 1975. 

Pat continues to lead the sing along for elderly residents of The Lodge at Broadmead that she began at Tillicum Lodge 36 years ago – and shows no signs of stopping!

 Pat is remarkably dedicated, a natural leader with a quiet and gentle manner.  She lives to connect with others through music.  Her commitment and passion for volunteerism is evident in all that she does.  She also leads a community choir and has volunteered in the school system and at Swan Lake among other organizations too numerous to mention. Pat also served as a founding member of the Board of Tillicum and Veterans Care Society.

Pat does not volunteer for the recognition and is, in fact, rather uncomfortable with being in the spot light.  She is a great inspiration, a leader, and a friend to other volunteers who enjoy helping residents to participate in the sing along program.  She views her volunteering as a team effort, and she always brings out the best in residents and volunteers alike.

Pat is a great ambassador for Broadmead Care Society and has always approached her leadership from the perspective that she is part of a team where everyone has an important role to play. 

Volunteers with Broadmead Care Society make every moment matter.  With Pat Robertson, moments matter in the most honest and heart felt ways. Thank you Pat for all you do and have done for us!

If you would like to learn more and/or volunteer with Broadmead Care Society contact Kelly Sprackett (kelly.sprackett@broadmeadcare.com) or call Kelly at 250-658-0311.

Eyes on Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre


The following is a guest blog post written and researched by one of Volunteer Victoria’s newest volunteer writers, Gwen Hill. Gwen is one of two Volunteer Victoria Media Copy Writers and she joined us in early 2011. She says she “has been writing for pleasure and craft since she figured out how to hold a pen”.  Enjoy!

To check out available volunteer opportunities with the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, you can search their listings on Volunteer Victoria’s website:  http://ow.ly/46056.

The Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre opened its doors on June 20th, 2009, merging the resources and exhibits of the  Marine Ecology Centre from Sidney/Cowichan Bay, with those of the Sidney Marine Mammal Museum.

How many times have you poked a sea anemone?

If you’ve lived in British Columbia for more than a month, the odds are good that your answer is: ‘More than once’.  At the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, you can combine the excitement of the ocean and all its inhabitants with the pleasure of learning their names, where they come from, and how they reproduce.

You enter the Centre through a large sliding porthole, which transports you – shaking and bubbling all the way – to the bottom of the ocean floor. (This is an illusion. Take deep breaths.) When you step out, you are greeted by the friendly, smiling face of a volunteer – or ‘Oceaneers’, as they are known.  After a brief explanation of what you’re about to see, you may wander to your heart’s content, and ask questions of anyone in a green vest. Lighted screens give information and surprising little factoids.  Did you know there were near-albino sea cucumbers?  Would you like to see one?  I know just the place!

“Our Oceaneers really are the heart and soul and very much the personality
of the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre. They are what brings the experience
alive for our visitors, and we see them as absolutely fundamental.
The range of experience and backgrounds that they bring, be they age 11 or 81,
makes our volunteers a core part of our identity.”

-Angus Matthews, Executive Director

If you were to volunteer, you would have the opportunity to gain in-depth knowledge about each creature inhabiting the many tanks and displays. Whether your interests lie in creating programs for school groups, designing interactive displays, or helping a child pick up their very first starfish, the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre has something for you.

Hayley and Joelle at the touch tank.

Volunteers can gain work experience while chatting with patrons in the gift shop, which shares its space with a suspended, full-scale skeleton of a killer whale.

Throughout the Discovery Centre you will find volunteers chatting with families, running school programs, designing new and exciting interactive displays, and teaching the proper way to poke an anemone. (Gently; with just your baby finger!)  Each volunteer attends a minimum of three training sessions per year, in which they learn about everything from Sea Cucumbers to Octopi.

To volunteer at the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, you are asked to commit to 60 hours per year.  That’s just an average 1hr and 15mins flexible a week, though of course, you may want to do more! You will also be offered the chance to attend as many Marine Education training sessions as you like above and beyond the minimum of three per year. There is so much to do and see and so many ways to make a difference!

To learn more about the Shaw Ocean Discovery Centre, visit their website at http://www.oceandiscovery.ca/ or just drop by!  More information about volunteering is provided at: http://www.oceandiscovery.ca/volunteer.

It’s Random Acts of Kindness Week

Happy Valentine’s Day! Today seems a very appropriate day to kick off Random Acts of Kindness Week.  We invite everyone (individuals, companies, schools, service clubs, etc.) to join us and take part.

Share your story and/or your ideas here on our blog. This is your chance to help make someone else’s day (and to brighten up your own as well!).

We will tweet out a daily RAK suggestion (#volvicbcRAK) and look forward to hearing yours! Let’s show everyone what an amazing city Victoria is!

Today’s #volvicbcRAK suggestion is to share this “challenge” with others in your network and tell us what you have done on our blog!

Looking forward to hearing your stories/comments/ideas!

Celebrating Volunteerism

This post first appeared in Volunteer Victoria’s E-Link newsletter. Sign up for E-Link and keep current with news and information from Volunteer Victoria. We welcome your feedback and suggestions.

This week, all across Canada, organizations are celebrating National Volunteer Week. Here in Victoria, we are also recognizing the very significant contribution that volunteers make to our community. 

Along with this celebration of volunteerism, Volunteer Victoria is also celebrating 35 years of service to our community. As we reflect on the changes that have taken place over the past 35 years, we are very much aware of the way volunteer roles have changed and evolved.

When VV first opened its doors, much of the work that volunteers did in our community was very hands-on. Today, while direct service continues to be a significant and greatly valued role, the scope and diversity of volunteer opportunities has expanded hugely.

Many of the activities that volunteers carry out today could not even have been imagined 35 years ago. 

Developments in technology have generated an entirely new category of volunteers in our community. First there were the volunteers who developed websites and databases. Now volunteers are creating social networking sites, managing blogs and developing videos for YouTube.

Who knew VV would have a 13 year old photographer compiling a digital photo archive for our Youth Program. Wow! 

Today, volunteers can also support our organizations from 2 miles down the road or 2,000 miles across the country. Like many other organizations, Volunteer Victoria is fortunate to have a “virtual” volunteer. Our wonderful graphic designer produces brochures and flyers – without ever crossing the pond.

As Boomers retire, many organizations have benefited from the wealth of skills and expertise that these talented individuals have to share. For resource strapped non-profits seeking assistance with HR, accounting or marketing, this volunteer expertise is truly a gift. We think our REALnet volunteer team is a very big gift.

There are young professionals who share their cutting edge IT skills, youth volunteers who know more about video production than most of us will ever learn, and workplace teams that give their all to paint a shelter on the weekend.

Volunteers support local festivals, their church, youth soccer, their elderly neighbour and human rights. They serve on boards, conserve our greenspace and Tweet our stories to the community.

They are youth, new Canadians, busy moms, Boomers and your neighbour down the street. They are you and 138,000 others in Victoria. The difference they make to our community is absolutely astounding.

And this week we say thank you.  Thank You Volunteers! 

by Val Green, Executive Director
Volunteer Victoria

Join the conversation! Stay connected here (and through our online newsletter E-Link ) for the latest news.

It’s National Volunteer Week!

Volunteer Victoria is celebrating our 35th anniversary as well as National Volunteer Week (April 18-24). We, along with our partner, the TELUS Victoria Community Board, are recognizing the 138,000 volunteers who contribute to our community this week! That means that 1 in 3 people in Greater Victoria volunteer with at least one community organization, if not several.

We are hosting a number of events this week, including a Volunteer Recruitment Fair at The Bay Centre from 10am-2:30pm on Friday, April 23rd. Come by to celebrate with us from noon to 1pm, enjoy some cake/coffee/musical entertainment and enter to win a TELUS smart phone courtesy of Tom Harris Cellular.

If you are interested in volunteering, stop by our Volunteer Recruitment Fair and meet 26 of Volunteer Victoria’s member agencies who are recruiting volunteers.

Can’t make it downtown? Browse our database of volunteer opportunities  to find the perfect fit for you!

Maybe you could be the next Wii Facilitator

See the impact that over 12 million volunteers in Canada make everyday! We thank you for all you do!

Volunteer Victoria has Spirit – Wins Gold for 10th Year in a Row!

Executive Director Val Green and Employee Campaign Chair Lori Elder proudly accept the Community Partner Spirit Award on behalf of their staff and volunteers.

Executive Director Val Green & Employee Campaign Chair Lori Elder proudly accept the Community Partner Spirit Award on behalf of their staff and volunteers. Photo credit: www.elighphoto.com

Left to right: Sylvia, Marjorie, Connie, Jean, Margaret, Shelagh, Shannon. Front left to right: Louise, Geoff, Kelly. Missing: Chris, Betty and Nancy.
Our valued volunteers/campaign supporters from left to right: Sylvia, Marjorie, Connie, Jean, Margaret, Shelagh, Shannon. Front left to right: Louise, Geoff, Kelly. Missing: Chris, Betty and Nancy.
Left to right: Val Green, Lori Elder, Bonnie van Volkenburg, Tara Macdonald, Nick Lyons, John Kay. Front left to right: Louise Keith and Lornna Olson. Missing: Beth Cougler Blom and Bob Gilmour.

Volunteer Victoria's staff from left to right: Val Green, Lori Elder, Bonnie van Volkenburg, Tara Macdonald, Nick Lyons, John Kay. Front left to right: Louise Keith and Lornna Olson. Missing: Beth Cougler Blom and Bob Gilmour.

For over ten years our amazing staff, board and volunteers have come through for those in need in our community. In each of the past ten years, Volunteer Victoria has earned a gold bar in recognition of our ability “to build organized capacity to improve people’s lives in our community.”

I have had the pleasure of being our Employee Campaign Chair for the past four years, and am very proud of our amazing team and accomplishments. In this, our 35th year of serving our community, we have also won the coveted Community Partner Spirit Award!

What does this mean? Here is how the United Way describes it:

Spirit Awards are presented to those volunteers and organizations in the community who have put forth an exceptional effort on behalf of the United Way during the annual community campaign, mostly in workplaces. Thanks in part to their hard work, the community raised $6.7 million.”

Congratulations and sincere thanks to our small but mighty team, and to all of you in our community who gave so generously, especially during these challenging fiscal times. Our community needs us all now more than ever.

Our Loaned Representative Wyatt Marchessault (BC Pension Corporation) was also a very valued team member.

Thank you United Way for recognizing our team in this way. It means a lot to us.

We are looking forward to another fun and successful campaign next year!

By: Lori Elder
Employee Campaign Chair, Volunteer Victoria


Does your organization have a workplace campaign? Not yet? You can make a difference too! Go to http://www.uwgv.ca/ to learn how you/your team can be part of the solution.


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