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. Eva was one of our awesome participants who put her feelings, thoughts, and ideas into a great blog post for us to share with you!
My name is Eva, I’m fifteen years old and I was a participant in Volunteer Victoria’s Community Youth Leadership Summit. During our time at the summit, we learned key tips and tricks for developing our cover letters and resumes, analyzing job posts, and being interviewed in a professional manner. We also became certified in CPR A, took a stroll through downtown learning about Victoria’s not-for-profits on United Way’s Impact tour and did some hands on volunteering at the Rainbow Kitchen Association, painting and cleaning their storage areas.
Oh, and we had lots of fun doing it!
This is what volunteerism should be about. I’m happy to offer my time, skills and effort to a cause in which I have found a passion. I like to think of volunteerism as an exchange. Sure, you aren’t being paid for your work in money, but there is so much to get out of volunteering, and that’s part of the reason that makes volunteering an ideal activity for everyone. Whether you’re doing it for school credit, to learn something new, to share existing skills, to feel part of a community, for recognition, to become well rounded, to be an agent of change, to build your resume, to explore a career… the possibilities are endless. And volunteering can also be used as a stepping-stone for paid work in the not-for-profit sector, as demonstrated by our dedicated Youth Team coordinators, Julia-Anne and Julena.
You also should never feel bad for receiving recognition for your work, and while it shouldn’t be the only reason you began volunteering, it’s always nice to be recognized for doing something you love.
I go to St. Michael’s University School, and you better believe they keep you busy there: advanced placement classes, tests and homework. Not to mention other extra curricular activities like clubs, councils, sports teams, and fundraiser. And the thing is, I love it. I love to keep busy, I thrive in a fast-paced environment where I can do the things I love. My ideal volunteer position would be in an engaging environment where you can bring your own creativity and experiences to the table.
What are the steps towards volunteering? It’s no picnic. The benefits, however, make volunteer an experience that you will never regret!
Discover yourself. Who am I? What kind of volunteer am I? What are your passions? How do you approach a problem? How do you prefer to work? The answers to these questions could help you discover the most rewarding volunteer opportunity.
Consider what your passions are, and what skills you have to offer. This will help you choose where you want to volunteer. If your passion is with animals, try volunteering at a local rescue shelter. If you’re passionate about literacy you can volunteer at the library, or become a tutor or peer note taker.
Of course, you can develop new skills and learn many things by volunteering, but your volunteer work can still be compatible with your interests. I, for example, am passionate about social justice issues, specifically aboriginal and women’s issues. Thus, I considered volunteering at the Didi Society – geared towards empowering women and children through fair trade – through their markets, or helping our at Restorative Justice Victoria. If it’s something you love, make it your own and feel good sharing your skills and passion.
Start small. If you’re like me and already have a busy schedule, volunteering your time for an hour or two per week is a great way to get started without becoming discouraged or overwhelmed. The amount of change you can create in such a short time might surprise you. Then, if you find you enjoy the work and have more time to pursue it, you can gradually take on more and bring your own personal flair to your work. Try not to get pressured into volunteering, or taking on too much. If it stops being rewarding and starts being a chore, back off or take a break.
Get to know others. Through your volunteer work, you’ll build a network of people who have similar goals and passions as you, who all come from different backgrounds and have different skills. Getting to know the people with whom you volunteer is one of the best parts of volunteerism. You could attend a training or orientation session, if one is available; if not, talk to local group leaders and other volunteers in the community about their experiences. You’ll learn what to expect of an organization and your work with it, and you’ll pick up some good tips to make your work there more productive and more meaningful.
Don’t become discouraged. Like in any real-world situation, volunteering can have its ups and downs. Sometimes, the tasks aren’t always glamorous, but know that even painting a room can benefit an organization. When our group was finished our job, our clothes were covered in paint but we were still proud. Imagine if it had only been the church staff painting that room, it would have taken forever! But with our help, they will be able to rent it out to make more money on the side to support the Rainbow Kitchen Association and the work they do.
HAVE FUN! This seems like a no-brainer, but always remember to love what you do. You’ll be more productive, and your enthusiasm will inspire others to follow their passions and help their communities.