Today on International Volunteer Day, we celebrate globally the contributions that volunteers make that better society every day of the year. Our Duke of Ed participants are no strangers to community service – it is a requirement of earning the Award after all. That is why we thought today would be the perfect day to share our list of top 5 ways you can volunteer over the Holidays. Whether it’s to complete your Award section, or just because you are feeling particularly giving this season, here are a few ways that you can channel that holiday giving spirit.
At The Duke of Ed, we strongly believe that a culture of giving and volunteerism is key to a successful society. Community service helps to build meaningful connections through experience. It’s as rewarding for you as it is for others! For more than a decade, Canadian Youth have volunteered more than any other age group in the country, and The Duke of Ed is proud to encourage growth in the Community Service sector through the Awards program. When thinking about where you want to volunteer, ask yourself what kind of impact you want to have, what skills you want to gain, and ultimately, what kind of person you are hoping to become. Determining where your passions lie will help narrow down the scope of possibilities for where you want to volunteer. To get you started, here is a list of a few organizations where your assistance will be greatly appreciated.
Do you consider yourself a word-smith, or a literary buff? Do you spend your free time with your nose stuck in a book? Are you a firm believer that the pen is mightier than the sword? Reading and writing are a great way to explore, and to get lost in a world of fantasy. Did you know though, that 42% of Canadian adults between the ages of 16 and 65 have low literacy skills? That’s a huge majority of the Canadian population struggling to read and write – two skills that are essential to success in today’s society. Frontier College is an organization that helps Canadians build literacy and numeracy skills. You don’t have to be a teacher to volunteer with them! There are plenty of ways to help out through tutoring, reading stories and helping with special events.
2. Hospital / Retirement Home
Some of the loneliest and most marginalized people in our society are out of sight, confined to their rooms and beds in hospitals and retirements homes. Instead of feeling sad about it, get proactive! If you have a skill you are looking to practice, like a musical instrument or a new song you’d like to sing, hospitals and retirement homes have the perfect audience. The people here are always happy to have visitors entertain, play games, or read with them. Often, they are just looking for someone to talk with to pass the time. An hour or two out of your life can make someone’s week. Trust us – you’ll both finish off your visit with a smile on your face.
3. Coach a sport team
Do you have a seemingly endless supply of patience, and a natural ability with kids? Are you athletic with a true passion for sports? Why not combine these aspects of your life by becoming a coach? Think of the people who have had an impact in your life as you’ve grown. Now think about how you can be that for someone else. Sports provide kids with a multitude of ways to succeed, but many times little leagues struggle to find reliable coaches who care about helping a team flourish. It’s easy to find a league in your area, and who knows – maybe you’ll be coaching the next Sidney Crosby, or Christine Sinclair!
4. Food Bank
We may live in one of the greatest countries in the world, but that doesn’t mean we do not have citizens who are suffering. Groceries, as I’m sure your parents can attest to, are expensive. Did you know that every month, over 850, 000 people are helped by food banks? More than one-third of people helped by food banks are children. You know how hard it is to concentrate when you’re hungry, and we’ve all suffered the consequences of our hangry selves. Now imagine feeling that hunger constantly, never knowing when you may receive your next meal. Fortunately, there are ways you can help. Contacting your local food bank is a great way to begin. Ask them if you can stop by one evening to help out in the kitchen. Are you an aspiring chef? Here is the perfect opportunity to hone your skills. You can also help by organizing a food drive, and spreading the word about hunger within your community!
Does the thought of conversing with human beings make you break out into a cold sweat? Has your motivation to volunteer been stiffened by your fear of large crowds and stranger interaction? Fortunately for you, humans aren’t the only mammals that could use a helping hand. If you feel more comfortable sharing your secrets with a cat, then animal shelters are the place for you. Local animal shelters are always looking for eager assistants to help clean out cages, feed the animals and take them for walks. Earning an award while cuddling puppies and kittens? Sign us up!
Are you the resident guru in your group of friends? Do people come to you seeking your seemingly infinite wisdom? You don’t need to start an advice column, but you can become an advocate for mental health awareness within your school. Starting a Kids Help Phone school club gives you the training and activities you need to make emotional health and wellness a priority in your school. You can help facilitate events that take action against bullying, help your peers deal with the daily stress of being a student, and best of all you’re learning about your own emotional well-being through the experiences of others.
Do you have an opinion on everything? Do you consider yourself full of great ideas to help make your community a better place? Well, don’t let your genius go to waste! We are lucky to live in a democratic nation where every voice matters. Let yours be heard. Volunteering with a political party is a great way to meet like-minded people, and to get your foot in the political door. Today you are knocking on doors, and collecting signatures, tomorrow, you could be running for Prime Minister, ready to take on the world! Read up on the main Canadian parties, and decide whose platform resonates with you, or contact your local MP to see how you can get involved in his or her office.
How often have you passed a person living on the street, looking weathered and down on their luck and thought to yourself, “I wish there was something I could do to help.” You may not have money to offer, but you do have time. You can put that time to use with Habitat for Humanities, an organization whose mission is “To mobilize volunteers and community partners in building affordable housing and promoting homeownership as a means to breaking the cycle of poverty.” If you value human dignity, and believe that every individual deserves a place to hang their hat, then strap-on your tool belt, or pick up a paint brush and lend a hand to build a home.
Canada is a beautiful country, and our parks are where we can spend time in nature with friends, family and loved ones. However, it is easy to forget that it is a community effort to keep our parks a clean and safe place for everyone to enjoy. It’s easy to pick up garbage bag, and participate in a community clean up effort. If you consider yourself to be a curious explorer – someone who is interested in the science behind the nature, then volunteering with Parks Canada is a great fit for you! Their website boasts plenty of opportunities for budding scientists and explorers. From archaeological projects to rare plant inventories, there is no shortage of excitement to be had here.
10. Charity Race / Walk
Maybe you consider yourself an active individual, but you just aren’t that into team sports. If you have a passion for running, or love to take long walks, participating in a fundraiser is a fun way to raise awareness and money for a good cause. There are no shortages of charities to support – from cancer research to autism awareness, you can walk your way to the end of your Community Service in no time!
These are just ten ideas to get you started, but if you put on your thinking cap, I’m sure you can come up with many more. And, if you can’t find a cause you feel extremely passionate about, why not consider starting your own? Find some friends, and a trusted adult with similar interests, and brainstorm ways that you can reach out and make a difference in your community.