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What's it Like to Volunteer on... a Non-Profit Board?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, June 20, 2016
Updated: June 17, 2016

Board members meeting 

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Are you a professional looking to volunteer your time and skills for a cause you feel passionate about?  Are you looking for a volunteer role with more accountability that leverages your knowledge and experience? Are you looking to take your strategic thinking, communication, and planning skills to the next level?

If any of these scenarios resonate with you, non-profit board opportunities may be an excellent next step. Every non-profit has a group of volunteers know as a Board of Directors who collectively oversee the organization’s mission, strategic objectives, and financial and human resources. Whilst board roles can be a great leadership volunteer opportunity, they can be significantly different based on the size and structure of the non-profit organization and tend to require both a long-term commitment and a notable dedication of time and effort.

Rhema Kang 
 Rhema Kang

We spoke to Toronto lawyer, Rhema Kang, about her experience sitting on the board of the Chinese Canadian National Council of Toronto (CCNCTO), an organization of Chinese Canadians in the City of Toronto that promotes equity, social justice, inclusive civic participation, and respect for diversity.





How long have you volunteered with CCNCTO?

I have volunteered as a director for the past year, prior to that I spent 3 years on the board of English Language Tutoring for the Ottawa Community (ELTOC), a non-profit organization that provides home tutoring for adult immigrants who cannot attend regular English programs.


How would you describe your board role?

As a director, I attend monthly board meetings to decide on governance, funding, engagement, activities, and more. My role mainly focuses on the ‘big picture’ of the organization, although I sometimes get involved in the day-to-day aspects.


Was training provided for your role?

There was no training provided, but my legal background has definitely helped me understand the duties and responsibilities of directors, as well as the laws that govern non-profit organizations. However, I think anyone who brings passion and a willingness to learn and invest time into an organization can succeed as a director of a board.


What is the time commitment involved on your board?

About 10 hours per month, mostly spent in board meetings and occasionally at events with CCNCTO members.


What common misconceptions do people have about board volunteering?

People often assume you need to be an established professional to become a director of a non-profit board. While this may be true for some large non-profits, there are many small charities looking for committed directors with diverse talents and perspectives. I joined my first board when I was 24 years old, and most of the other directors were middle-aged or older. There was an opportunity for me to use my experience with social media to help the organization, which is something the other directors did not have much familiarity with. So diverse skills are definitely in demand.


What do you like most about volunteering for Chinese Canadian National Council of Toronto (CCNCTO)?

CCNCTO is an advocacy organization that was originally founded to seek redress from the Chinese Head Tax imposed on Chinese migrant workers. Since then, CCNCTO has evolved into an organization that promotes equity, civil participation and respect for diversity. I've had the opportunity to play a role in defining the mission and vision of the organization as it goes forward. I'm encouraged to see the ways in which the organization sends a powerful message to members of the Chinese community - I was recently part of an event at City Hall where many Chinese seniors were excited to be taking selfies with Mayor John Tory!


What advice do you have for anyone interested in volunteering on a non-profit board?

Get to know the organization before becoming a board member. If you’re already involved with the organization as a volunteer, you'll know the day-to-day operations, as well as the challenges and opportunities. This knowledge will make your contribution as a board member that much stronger. Start with a small organization you're familiar with, and this will open up opportunities to work with other boards down the road.


Becoming a Board Member CTA



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How Do I Find Volunteer Opportunities for My 12 Year-Old?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, June 7, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our new blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Dear Volunteer Toronto, 


Are there any volunteer opportunities for kids? My 12 year old son really wants to do some volunteer work, but has been told he has to be 16. I would be happy to attend with him as well.





Hello Kathy,

Thank you for your email. We are so glad to hear your son is interested in volunteering! To get involved in the community at that age can truly set a pattern of life-long behaviour!

While some organizations accept volunteers who are as young as 14, it can be tough for children younger than high school age to find volunteer opportunities, and what is available depends on the organization’s volunteer policies. Most opportunities for children around 12 years old will request that they be accompanied by an adult.

We, at Volunteer Toronto, have tried to make it easy for you by combining family-friendly opportunities into one category.


To find suitable options:

1)     Visit

2)     Leave all search options blank

3)     Search by Category “2. Suitable for Families (Parents & Kids)”


You’ll find that many of these opportunities involve assisting with various special events across the city. These can include helping with fundraisers, 5K walks or runs, or assisting with festivals among many other fun things. Another popular family volunteer experience is to deliver meals to seniors or those who aren’t able to leave their homes.

Thank you for your question and we wish you and your son a wonderful time volunteering,

Volunteer Toronto


Tags:  can children volunteer?  volunteering under 16  Volunteering with your family 

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Four Ways Volunteering is Changing

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, June 1, 2016
Updated: May 31, 2016



Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

What thoughts come to your mind when you think about your perfect volunteer role?  What would make it fun and meaningful for you?

At Volunteer Toronto, we’re always hearing about what kind of volunteer roles people are looking for and it's exciting to see how significantly interests have changed over the past few decades. Today's volunteers are autonomous, tech-savvy and mobile; they are students, newcomers, professionals (young and mid-career), or seniors. We know that altruism remains one of the reasons people volunteer but there are a host of other motivators.


1. You Crave Flexibility

Maybe not this kind of extreme flexibility but we recognize that you want the freedom to create your own volunteer opportunities with organizations that connect with your values. You want to offer up a specific set of skills versus committing to pre-defined opportunities.                 


2. You Don't Want To Over Commit

Volunteers are asking for more short-term or project-based opportunities. We understand that you are busy and often deal with shifting priorities in your life.  For some, certain times of the year are busier than others making it difficult for you to commit long-term.


3. You Are Goal Oriented

Today, many volunteers want to give back to help others but also want to gain from volunteering. You might want to learn a skill or acquire a specific type of experience that will ultimately help you with career momentum. For instance, you might be a newcomer wanting to build a network, or might be interested in changing careers and are using volunteering as a stepping stone.

4. You Think Outside The Box

You may want to help with an entirely different set of tasks than what you do in your work-life. For example, as an accountant you may not want to volunteer with numbers, but instead put your artistic skills to good use. Perhaps you want to explore a hobby? Find more balance in your life? Create a mini-escape from your day job?

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What's it Like to Volunteer for... the Egale Youth OUTreach Counselling Centre

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, May 24, 2016
Updated: May 24, 2016


Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, and two-spirited (LGBTIQ2S) children and youth up to age 29 who are homeless, unstably housed, or at risk of homelessness or who are in need of a space in which to feel welcome and supported

When homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, violence and harassment combine with the experience of homelessness and other stressors, they take their toll on mental health and overall well-being. The Egale Youth OUTreach Counselling Centre (EYO) provides direct services to LGBTIQ2S youth to help address these challenges.

So, what part can you play in this organization?  According to Jesse Hatch, a Peer Resource Worker with the EYO, it can be as simple as playing a game of Uno or watching a movie! She states that peer support can come in uncommon but valid forms.  Below, Jesse shares her experience volunteering at the EYO.

Describe your role as a Peer Resource Worker.

JH: My role is focused on offering peer support and aiding in the preparation of fresh, nourishing meals and snacks for our service-users. I strive to create meaningful, healthy relationships with the youth and facilitate referrals to relevant and desired services whenever possible.


What is the time commitment involved?

JH: A regular shift at Egale is 4 hours weekly during the drop in hours of
3 p.m.-7p.m. On average, I volunteer for 16 hours a month. 


What type of training were you provided with?

JH: Egale provides informative and thorough training before you enter the space to volunteer. The training familiarizes volunteers with the appropriate use of language, boundaries and etiquette when interacting with service-users and is delivered through a harm reduction lens.


What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your role?

JH: Compassion and patience are crucial when interacting with people in crisis. It is important to be mindful of boundaries when interacting with service-users, while striving to provide the highest level of empathic support and care. For example, using inclusive language or actively engaging when an individual is relaying a personal experience or asking for your advice.


What have you learned from this volunteering experience?

JH: This experience has taught me the value of self-awareness and mindfulness when interacting with new people. Volunteering at the EYO reminds me that we should unpack what we bring into our interactions with others and examine the cursory assumptions we make about people.


What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

JH: Critically analyze why you are drawn to a position before applying. You will likely thrive in this position if you feel like you might be suited for it, are drawn to it by personal experiences with queerness, have an interest in intersectionality and trauma-informed care and have a desire to help your community.

If you are interested in working with an organization with the following values:

·      LGBTIQ2S Affirming

·      Client Centric Service

·      Youth Empowerment

·      Strengths-Based Approach

·      Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression

·      Non-Judgment

·      Community and Collaboration

Contact Egale at 416-964-7887 or visit the Egale Website to learn about the various volunteer roles available and read some Frequently Asked Questions about the organization. 


Tags:  Human Rights  LGBT Rights  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support 

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How Do I Find Out about Volunteering for Special Events?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, May 16, 2016
Updated: May 13, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our new blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Dear Volunteer Toronto,


My birthday is coming up soon, and I would love to spend the day volunteering for something fun! How do I find out about volunteering for special events?

Thanks so much,




Hey LaKeisha,

What a wonderful email and question to receive. We're so glad that you are interested in spending your birthday volunteering for a great cause! As we enter the spring and summer you’ll find there are many special events looking for volunteers.

Some examples of current special event volunteer opportunities include setting up for large events, assisting at registration, taking photos, cheering on runners at a race, planting trees, serving meals,  performing at festivals and so much more!

The easiest way to find special event volunteer opportunities is to:

1. Go to

2. Leave all search categories blank except under “Type of Position” select “One Day or Less."

3. Click “Search."


4. Your results will bring up all Special Event Volunteer opportunities currently in our database.

5. You can then read through and choose positions that interest you. By clicking on them you’ll learn more information about the position.

Once you've settled on a position that fits your interest, time and location, please contact the organization directly either by email or phone depending on the information they posted in the position’s details. The contact information is generally listed at the bottom of the posting.

TIP: It is always best to apply to more than one volunteer position to widen your chances of getting a position.

We also encourage you to create a profile on our website so you can receive our Volunteer Times newsletter to learn more about volunteer opportunities across the city. 

If you need any additional help feel free to call a Volunteer Advisor at 416-961-6888 ext 232 who can help you navigate the website and answer any specific questions you have. 

Thanks again for your question. We hope you have an absolutely wonderful birthday! 


Volunteer Toronto

Tags:  one-day events  volunteer  volunteer for birthday  volunteer for one day  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  volunteering on special events 

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What's it Like to Volunteer for... Habitat for Humanity

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, May 10, 2016
Updated: May 9, 2016


Photo courtesy of Habitat For Humanity GTA

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Having a safe and decent place to live is a basic human right. Yet there are 1.6 million Canadian families in need of safe, clean and affordable shelter but are forced to decide between heat and rent – a choice no family should ever have to make.

 Keith Perrin (left) and volunteer

Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area is a non-profit organization that envisions a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Their work focuses on mobilizing volunteers and community partners to help hardworking, low income families break the cycle of poverty through affordable homeownership. Volunteers are the heart and soul of their work and each year 10,000 volunteers contribute over 100,000 hours to support the organization. One of their most well-known volunteer activities involves helping to build a home for a family.

Intrigued by what’s involved? Volunteer Toronto spoke with Keith Perrin, a volunteer with a background in sales and management, who rolled up his sleeves to help the cause and has helped many families along the way.


What is your current role at Habitat for Humanity GTA?

I’m the Volunteer Crew Leader


How long have you volunteered with this organization?

For more than three years.


How would you describe your current volunteer role?

Habitat for Humanity helps break the cycle of poverty for our partner families by providing a path to home ownership that would not otherwise be financially feasible.

We construct new build homes using volunteer labour, except where a licensed tradesperson is needed. Since volunteers perform primary framing, insulation, flooring and numerous other construction tasks, we are able to produce a quality home at a low construction cost.

Volunteers typically have no construction experience and must be taught the skills required to perform the task assigned for their day on the site, and be supervised throughout the day. This is a great learning experience, and opportunity to lend skills to a good cause in a hands-on fashion.

As a Volunteer Crew Leader, I teach construction skills, perform construction tasks and direct volunteers as they work on the home.


What is the time commitment involved?

For the past three years, I have averaged 500 hours per year. My frequency varies from as many as 3 to 4 days per week in the spring and fall, to a more staggered schedule in the summer and winter when vacation intervenes. As an organization, Habitat works with "what you can do, when you can do it" rather than a fixed commitment.

Many people only volunteer once, often as part of a corporate or community group. Some volunteers become regulars, and participate a few times per month. Regulars can graduate to the "Crew Program", in which they have expanded responsibility and assist less experienced volunteers. Some Crew Program members go on to become Crew Leaders if they show the desire, ability and commitment to more regular participation.


What does training consist of? How long does it last?

Training at Habitat occurs on the job, as it’s the only practical way to learn to build a house. I’ve been a Crew Leader for three years and a day never goes by that I don't still learn something from another volunteer.

Learning and teaching construction skills is a fundamental part of the Habitat model. Habitat people are extremely generous with their knowledge. Knowledge sharing is an integral part of the Habitat spirit.


What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

I was initially shocked at how little I knew about actual construction. I always thought of myself as a handy guy, but it turned out I knew zero about building a real house. Mercifully Habitat people are incredibly generous with their knowledge.

I was also surprised to realize how much teaching and leadership is involved, and how weak my skills were. I spent my career in management, but I quickly realized that everyone I managed already knew their jobs!

At Habitat every day brings a new cohort of volunteers who generally have a great spirit, but no knowledge. I can say that my teaching and leadership skills are better today than they were before I retired, but don't tell my old employer that!


What have you learned from your volunteering?

Obviously, I’ve learned how to build houses. But the greater, and somewhat surprising thing I’ve learned is how to teach and lead people.

As Crew Leaders we spend some time discussing the construction process, but we spend far more time discussing the best ways to teach volunteers with no experience how to perform a required task effectively.

It’s critical that we teach inexperienced volunteers new tasks early in the morning, so that they can be productive and self-sufficient by the midday coffee break if we are to have a successful day.


How have the skills/knowledge you’ve gained through your volunteering transferred into other areas of your life?

There’s no doubt I am a better builder since joining Habitat, but I have also become the "go to" guy amongst everyone I know for an answer to a technical home question!


What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteering that you do?

People think Habitat builds houses and gives them away, and this is not the case. Habitat’s motto is  "We give a hand up, not a hand out”.

Partner families (who will be living in the home) begin by passing a rigorous qualification process. They then have to give 500 hours of volunteer time to their home construction in lieu of a down payment. The house is sold to the partner family at its full market value, and Habitat provides a 100% first mortgage at zero interest with a repayment schedule geared to income.

The partner family must earn their way into an equity position in the property by paying down that mortgage. Were they to choose to sell the property after paying down only 10% of the mortgage, they would be entitled to only 10% of the equity in the home, including any appreciation in market value. This is a long term commitment for the partner family. When we say the partner family is in partnership with Habitat, we mean it!


What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

Give it a try! It's physically demanding, and although it may not feel like it at first, it's a big benefit. I am 67 years old and am in the best shape I've been in the last 25 years! It also provides a great mental workout - construction is essentially one long problem-solving exercise, and it has improved my math skills significantly.

More than anything: come with an open mind willing to learn, teach and meet new and interesting people.




Tags:  Construction volunteers  Habitat for Humanity  poverty reduction  Toronto  volunteer in construction  Volunteer in Toronto 

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Making Your Court-Ordered Community Services Hours Time Well Spent

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, April 25, 2016
Updated: April 14, 2016

Andre volunteering at the Dance Marathon

Andre (left) and Megan voluntering at Volunteer Toronto's Dance Marathon in support of SickKids

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

After receiving a traffic citation, I was required by court order, to complete 80 hours of community service, which at the time, seemed a very daunting task given my hectic, deadline-driven work schedule, long commute to and from home, as well as periods of extended travel. I began by looking to my personal and professional networks for connections that worked in the non-for-profit space that could perhaps refer me to volunteer positions that would allow me to leverage my work experience and skills. I noticed there were many volunteer positions that required candidates commit to a recurring schedule over the course of a few months, but due to my hectic schedule, I needed to find a volunteer position where I could help on either a single event or small number of events. Enter Volunteer Toronto…

There are several great online resources throughout the GTA that aggregate volunteer opportunities and offer a convenient listing of those positions. In general these websites allow you to search, review, and register for a variety of different tasks, events, and programs. After searching casually on a few, I kept coming back to the Volunteer Toronto website because I found it to be thorough and intuitive with a great variety of potential opportunities. The site allows you to search by category and surface specific types of work assignments: such as events that involve group activities, those that support people with disabilities, fundraising positions, consulting, and clerical tasks or some combination of the many options offered. What’s more, users can search by keyword if the particular category they’re seeking isn’t listed and then further sort through assignments by location. Further still, the site offers the ability to search based on duration of availability so one can find a one-day assignment, a short term (less than 3 months), long term (greater than 3 months) or indicate that the duration “doesn’t matter.” The search tools are robust and really help take any guesswork out of the process in addition to aggregating and providing consistent updates of the available positions.

My first volunteer assignment was with Central Eglinton Community Centre.  They offer programs and activities for seniors, children, and the general public. Over the course of a few months I helped with general labour and organizing events as well as supporting the leaders, coordinators, and presenters during programs such as: health care information sessions, sales of baked goods and books, and other programs for members, employees, and volunteers. I also helped to supervise the computer lab during designated hours so that registered members could have computer access and I helped those who needed assistance with internet research, email, and word processing. In addition to supporting the wide variety of events and programs that the centre offered I also volunteered at one-off events including: The United Way CN Tower Climb and both Volunteer Toronto’s Grassroots Growth launch event as well as their Dance Marathon in support of SickKids.

The best advice I can give to those looking to contribute or in need of volunteer hours as part of a requirement is to take advantage of the resources offered on the Volunteer Toronto website. Beyond the volunteer opportunity search page, they also have information on how to get started as a volunteer, frequently asked questions about volunteering, stories from past volunteers about their experience, and even a bi-weekly newsletters volunteer opportunities, free information sessions, and special events.

In order to help ensure that the experience is enjoyable and mutually beneficial one should come with an open mind, flexible attitude, and friendly demeanour as the specific needs may change as the event progresses. Approach the volunteer assignment with the same level of professional, engagement, and willingness to contribute as one would have with respect to a paid position.

After volunteering at a number of different events, the one key takeaway is that there are many organizations throughout the GTA offering important services and making meaningful contributions to the lives of Torontonians that, in order to provide those services to the community, need the help and dedication of volunteers. After gaining an appreciation for the value they offer I will absolutely continue to lend a hand and encourage others to join and make whatever contribution of their time, skills, and experience that they can. 

Tags:  416  Court-ordered community service  give back  mandatory community services  The6ix  Toronto  volunteer  volunteering in Toronto 

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How Do I Find the Right Volunteer Position?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, April 22, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our new blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Dear Volunteer Toronto,


I am interested in volunteering, but am unsure what the experience is like. I’ve never volunteered before and I want to volunteer in a positive and welcoming environment. Do you have any suggestions about how to find a good fit?






Hello Arash, 

Thank you so much for your email and your question! It makes complete sense that you want to be in a positive and welcoming environment where you feel your contribution is meaningful!

As you said you haven’t volunteered before we have several suggestions for you: 





My first suggestion for you is to learn more about volunteering! Read our Frequently Asked Questions. Explore the “What’s It Like To…” blog series to hear from volunteers in various roles. Check out VolunteersofTO to learn more about volunteers across out city. Talk to persons you know, about where they volunteer and the types of roles they perform with an organization. Read through the position descriptions on our website to gain a better understanding of the options. 




After learning more about volunteering, I encourage you to act as a volunteer for several one-day special events happening in different organizations. This will allow you to meet some of the staff and fellow volunteers of the organization and give you a general feel for it. Were people friendly? Were you given the resources you needed to do the job well? Did you have fun? This will help you determine a good organizational fit. The best way to search for one-day special events is to visit our Opportunities Database and search by “Type of Position – One Day or Less





After volunteering at several special events, we encourage you to follow our 3Rs for finding a good volunteer position—Reflect, Research and Reach Out. It is important to spend some time thinking more about what you are interested in doing, what kind of time you can give, and what you are hoping to learn, share or gain from the experience, to ensure that volunteering is meaningful for yourself and the organization. 



Hope this is helpful Arash. If you need any additional support please book an appointment with a Volunteer Advisor who can help you navigate the website, answer questions you have and provide suggestions of places for you to volunteer.




Volunteer Toronto



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What's it Like to Volunteer for... a Cat Rescue

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, April 18, 2016
Updated: April 13, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Cats have taken the Internet by storm over the last few years. Whether they’re grumpy, cuddly or lazy, these animals continue to win people over both on and offline.  Unfortunately, many cats in the city are born in the wild, which means they don’t have access to regular food or care. Annex Cat Rescue works to help all these furry felines in need.


Sara Slater
Volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue

Founded in 1997, the Annex Cat Rescue started in its namesake—the Annex—but soon expanded to help cats across the Greater Toronto Area. This not for profit organization is run by volunteers committed to reducing the feral population and helping cats find homes. Sara Slater has been a volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue for the past 10 years.





How would you describe your volunteer role?

Annex Cat Rescue is a 100% volunteer-run organization. I started volunteering by fostering cats after one of mine died. After fostering, I was interested in getting more involved.

I have volunteered in a variety of roles at Annex Cat Rescue, including many administrative positions. Administrative roles are great because you can help cats indirectly, just by working on the computer or supporting other volunteers.

The feeding and caring for the feral cats brings me the most joy of all though, which is some of what I do in my current role as the Feral Colony Coordinator & Community Manager.  I love interacting with the cats, who wait for us every day for food, and monitoring them to see if they need any medical or extra care. For this interview I'll concentrate on the position of feeding the feral cats.

What do you like most about volunteering for this non-profit?

I love volunteering for the Annex Cat Rescue because they really support you through every situation. Everyone is so compassionate and caring.

What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteer work that you do?

People usually think we're a small organization that looks after a few homeless cats. It’s actually estimated there are over 100,000 homeless cats in the city, so that requires a lot people.  There are many homeless cat colonies that Annex Cat Rescue and other rescuers work with, so everyone comes together to help out.

What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteer work?

As a member of the feral feeding team, I’ve learned how to work independently and help out as part of a team. I've also developed valuable communications and organization skills keeping track of cats, volunteers and keeping everyone up to date.

Is training provided for your role? What did it consist of and how long did it last?

Yes, training is definitely provided for feral feeding. Usually a new volunteer will speak with the volunteer coordinator, and then shadow an experienced feeder for one or two sessions. They will show the new volunteer where and how much to feed the cats, what to look out for, and answer any questions.

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

It’s surprising how much valuable health information I’ve learned about cats through volunteering over the years. The information has definitely helped me better care for my own cats.

What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteering?

For feral feeding you need to have a big, empathetic heart. You also need to communicate effectively with the other feeders to discuss any situations that may arise, such as when a cat needs medical care.


What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteering?

If you're interested in joining the Feral Feeding team, it’s best to see what it’s like first-hand. Email Annex Cat Rescue and say you’d like to shadow an experienced feral feeder!



Tags:  cat care  Cat recuse  feral cats  volunteer with cats  volunteering in Toronto 

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What's it Like to Volunteer as... a Peer Mentor?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 29, 2016
Updated: February 5, 2020
 Mentor and mentees through the Peer Project
Photo courtesy of The Peer Project

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: Newcomer and at-risk kids, ages 6-15

 Youth and Mentor at Blue Jays Game
 Peer mentor and youth

Building a positive, nurturing mentoring relationship with a child in need can alter the course of their life. Did you know you have the potential to help a child to do better in school? Prevent bullying? Reduce the crime rate? It’s true!

The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth matches youth mentors (aged 16 to 29) with newcomer and at-risk kids (aged 6-15), so they can build a friendship that encourages a healthy lifestyle. While a noble and principled cause, some may find the responsibility for altering the course of a young life an intimidating task. Like trying to make it from the kitchen sink to the freezer with a recently filled ice-cube tray in hand… without spilling a single drop. (bead of sweat rolls down forehead)

Fear not! Volunteer Toronto spoke with Michael Kwong, a volunteer with the Peer Project, to find out more about peer mentoring. Thankfully, perfection is not a necessity. He states that the ability to be there for your mentee and active listening are traits of a good mentor. 

If you possess these attributes and are thinking about peer mentoring, keep reading for more information.  


How would you describe the role of a Peer Mentor?

MK: A Peer Mentor is an individual who is, first and foremost, committed to building a positive relationship with their mentee. This can include partaking in different activities with the mentee to learn more about each other and staying in touch with the mentee's parents.


What common misconceptions do people have about mentoring?

MK: The notion that the mentor has the answers to everything. Mentors are human. However, a good mentor is there for the mentee when they need them, even if they don’t have the all the answers.


What is the time commitment involved?

MK: With the Peer Project it's three hours a week.

What type of training is provided for your role?

MK: A day of training was provided to prospective volunteers to equip them with the knowledge to become successful mentors.

* In addition to their initial training, which includes the topic of mental health so mentors can understand and help their mentees, peer mentors receive ongoing training and also have access to 24-hour support.


What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteer work?

MK: The most important characteristic and skill you can have when it comes to being a successful mentor is the passion for making a difference in the community and good leadership skills. Being a good leader involves leading by example, taking responsibility for one’s actions and a commitment to learning and improvement.


What do you like most about volunteering for the Peer Project?

MK: The flexibility. Not being confined to a set day and time enables me to schedule meetings with my mentee that work perfectly for the both of us.


What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer work?

MK: One of the challenges associated with mentoring is the process of building a relationship with your mentee and developing trust. However, with some time and patience, the mentor-mentee relationship that develops is priceless.


If mentoring with The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth sounds like something you’d be interested in, visit their Become a Mentor page to get more information. There are over 400 kids who are waiting to be matched. They need YOUR help.


To discover other volunteer opportunities available to you, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our Volunteer Advisors.


Check out this digital story by Olivia Plummer
to learn the life lessons she learned from her mentor.




Tags:  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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What a Few Hours of Youth Volunteering Can Look Like

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 21, 2016

Youth volunteer taking part in the Plastic Echo Action Fair during ChangeTheWorld 2015 


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

At Volunteer Toronto, we’re often asked...”As a high school student, how can I volunteer? What can I do?”

While volunteering can be intimidating for many high school students, it doesn’t have to be. There are a large number of non-profits who have youth volunteer opportunities and we want to make it easy for you to find them!

Each spring, we encourage high school students to volunteer for 3 hours or more as part of ChangeTheWorld, a six week challenge (April 10-May 23) to get Ontario high school students to volunteer locally and reward them for doing so. It’s an easy way to get a head start on your volunteer hours, or if you are already volunteering get recognized for your awesome work!

Not sure where to start? Here are some options!


1.Volunteer and fundraise for SickKids at the Dance Marathon


Youth participants at a Dance MarathonEvery year, more than 100,000 children go to SickKids for life-saving care. You can help by taking part in our Dance Marathon to raise money so SickKids can help even more children in the future.

You’ll just need to fundraise $30 or more, attend the Dance Marathon and dance! We’ll acknowledge your fundraising efforts with three volunteer hours and you’ll also be able to volunteer during the event by making thank you cards for the hardworking SickKids staff. Learn more and start fundraising today!


2.Plant fruit trees with TreeMobile


Youth Tree PlantingJoin TreeMobile volunteers as they plant climate-appropriate fruit trees and plants in Toronto. You can help by sorting plants before the planting day, help deliver and plant the trees or help coordinating the pickup sites. Find out more!






3.Sell Daffodil Pins with friends for the Canadian Cancer Society

Youth selling daffodilsEvery April, the Canadian Cancer Society asks volunteers across the country to help them with selling daffodils (a symbol of strength and courage) to raise money to help cancer patients and their families by funding life-saving cancer research. You can sign up for a shift in your area by yourself or with family and friends. Learn how to get involved!





And if you do take part, don’t forget to request your certificate for doing so. You can do so here!


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What's it Like to Volunteer for... an Environmental Organization?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 14, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Climate change is a hot issue these days, and the Canadian government recently announced what they’ll be doing to minimize the effects of climate change. Besides the commitments made in Ottawa, there are many local organizations working to make their neighbourhoods greener and cleaner. One of them is Transition Toronto.


 Casey McNeil
 Volunteer, Casey McNeill

Transition Toronto is the local chapter of the global Transition Movement, which exists to help communities rely less on oil, coal and natural gas, and create strategies to actively fight climate change locally. There are a number of chapters worldwide, helping to make the world a greener place.


If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer for an environmental organization, wonder no more! We spoke with Casey McNeill, a volunteer at Transition Toronto, to give you the inside scoop.





What’s your volunteer role at Transition Toronto?

CM: I’m the Volunteer Coordinator for TreeMobile, a project of Transition Toronto that supplies and delivers fruit trees and plants at low cost to people in Toronto. It’s run entirely by volunteers and is designed to empower people to achieve food security by planting and growing their own food as well as to increase the local tree canopy which has many environmental and personal benefits.


How long have you been volunteering for Transition Toronto?

CM: 3 years.


What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteer work?

CM: To be successful you need to be a team player who is willing to collaborate with others. Administrative and organizational skills are also really important. It’s also great for people who like to take initiative to get things done.


What do you like most about volunteering for Transition Toronto?

CM: I like that we are doing something to help combat food insecurity in Toronto. This means giving people access to local, nutritious food. I also like that we are increasing Toronto’s tree canopy, which helps keep our air clean. And the people I work with are awesome!



What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer experience?

CM: The number of youth interested in volunteering with Transition Toronto each year has been surprising, in a good way. They really like our TreeMobileprogram and planting trees in local communities.  It’s awesome to see that they don't mind getting their hands a little dirty to help out their community!



What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteering that you do?

CM: People think that planting trees and shrubs [for the TreeMobile program] is simple as getting a few people together, grabbing a few cars and hitting the road. TreeMobile requires many months of preparation, planning and organization.


If you’d like to get out and fight climate change in your community, considering joining the Transition Toronto volunteer team. You can visit their website or sign up to volunteer for the Tree Mobile project.


Tags:  Environmentalism  environmentalist  tree planting  volunteer for the environment  volunteer in Toronto  volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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What is the Best Way for Me to Find a Volunteer Position?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 7, 2016
Updated: March 4, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner


“Ask Us” is our new blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. Got a burning question? We're here to help!

Submit your question to - subject line: Ask Us

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Hello Volunteer Toronto,

am retiring soon and interested in getting involved in a volunteer position. I last volunteered about twenty years ago, and it seems that the field has changed since I was last involved. Why is this? What is the best way for me to find a volunteer position?






Hello, Mary


Thank you so much for your interest in volunteering! We are glad to hear that volunteering is part of your retirement plan!

Yes, you are right that the voluntary sector has changed significantly in the past twenty years. The primary reason for this is a greater concern for risk management and safety for the clients being served. This has translated into a more professionalized screening process for volunteers. For example, the application and screening process may now include:


  Submitting an application, possibly including a cover letter and resume 


Interview(s) by phone or in-person



Reference checks, Background checks or Vulnerable Sector Police Checks, particularly if you will be working with vulnerable populations



The best way for you to find a volunteer position is to follow the 3 R’s – Reflect, Research and Reach Out!

  Before looking for a volunteer position, spend time thinking about what you would most be interested in. Here are some questions to reflect on:

a. What are you looking for from a volunteer position?

b. What is your availability?

c. Are you interested in a particular cause or organization?

d. What kind of skills would you like to use or gain?

e. How long would you like to commit to a position? A few months? A year?

Once you have a clear idea of what you are interested in start researching possible options. The best way to do this is visit our Volunteer Opportunities Pageand search by Category. Be prepared to spend some time looking through the 100’s of postings on the website.

When you find a position title that appeals to you, apply to the position by following the instructions under the  “How to Apply/Contact” section of the posting.I would encourage you to apply to several different organizations at the same time. You never know which ones might work out or how many other people are applying.


If you need any additional help don’t hesitate to contact one of our Volunteer Advisor who can spend some time answering your questions, and helping you navigate the website to find suitable positions. You can book an appointment with them here or give them a call at 416-961-6888 ext 229.



Tags:  Frequently Asked Questions  how to start volunteering  Questions about volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  volunteers 

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What's it Like to Volunteer for... Meals on Wheels?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, February 29, 2016
Updated: February 5, 2020
 Michael and client talking by car

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: people who need extra support, elderly persons, vulnerable adults, caregivers, people who need help getting through a difficult time 

 photo of Michael Stipetic
 Michael Stipetic, volunteer with MOW
Being able to live in your own home with the ability to do everything for yourself isn’t a reality for everyone. Thankfully, forty years ago, a few volunteers had a vision that all community residents should have access to support services, which would allow them to maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life; and so began Meals on Wheels and More.


For over 40 years, this organization has been providing essential services to seniors and vulnerable adults in the North York area to assist them to live independently in their homes. Michael Stipetic is a driver and runner with the organization and has been since 2009. He volunteers once a week for two hours. Volunteer Toronto spoke with him about his experience.



What are some common assumptions people have about the volunteer work that you do?

MS: A common misconception is that everyone receiving Meals on Wheels (MOW) is elderly.

MOW not only provides services to elderly persons but also helps caregivers in need of extra support, people who aren’t feeling well enough to cook for themselves and those who need help to get through a difficult time in their lives. Low-cost and nutritious meals are delivered every day of the week, including boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables and convenient frozen options.

They can refer a transportation service to clients who need help getting to medical appointments, social events or who just want to get out to do some shopping! MOW has a social worker who provides information, coordination services and case management.  There is also a support group available for caregivers to join.


What type of training is provided?

MS: I was provided with on-the-job training. I had the opportunity to shadow another volunteer on the daily delivery route. The training lasted for two hours, and I was also provided with a detailed manual outlining the Meals on Wheels program.


What’s been challenging about your volunteer work?

MS: The driving routes can sometimes be a challenge depending on the number of clients and the weather. Being a driver with a good sense of direction and someone who is organized, adaptable and accepting of new challenges will contribute to your success in this type of volunteer work.

What have you learned from your volunteer work?

MS: Everybody requires aid in some capacity. Spending a small amount of time and putting forth a bit of effort can make a huge difference in someone's life. It can be as simple as picking up someone's newspaper or saying a kind greeting.


What is Michael’s advice to anyone looking to do this type of volunteer work? Just do it! He says that you will be surprised, as the one who gets the most help is YOU! To find out more about the different types of volunteer opportunities available at Meals on Wheels and More, including testimonials from other volunteers at this organization, click here!


Watch this digital story to find out more about volunteering at Meals on Wheels and More


To discover other volunteer opportunities available to you, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our Volunteer Advisors.


Tags:  How to give back  Meals on Wheels  Serving others  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer Toronto  Volunteering  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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What's it Like to Volunteer for... a Women's Shelter?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, February 2, 2016
Updated: February 1, 2016
 Photo courtesy of The Redwood
 Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Population Served: Women, Children

According to the City of Toronto, the emergency shelter system has grown rapidly and the face of homelessness has changed since the 1980s. As a result, the shelter system has become more specialized and flexible to meet new needs within the homeless population.

Volunteering in the shelter system allows you the opportunity to work with different populations, depending on the vision and mission of the specific organization. The Redwood is a women and children’s shelter in Toronto that aims to create a world where women and children live free from abuse and all other forms of violence and oppression, by offering programs and services that assist women and children to live and flourish without abuse, homelessness and poverty.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at a women’s shelter? Volunteer Toronto spoke with Sarah Robinson, a Children’s Programming Volunteer at the Redwood to give you some insight into what it’s like.



Note: Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity

VT: What are some common assumptions people have about the volunteer work that you do?

SR: That it's restrictive, depressing or really hard. The staff are so considerate of my schedule; I never worry about having to change time or cancel. The work doesn't feel like work― I get to goof around with some of the coolest kids I've ever met, and I don't have the responsibility to get them to sleep at bedtime! It is so far from sad. Even on hard or challenging days, everyone is so supportive and uplifting. I always leave with a happy heart and feeling really glad that I went.

VT: What is the time commitment involved?

SR: The Redwood is really flexible and understanding with commitment changes, but I am usually in for 1 to 1 1/2 hours a week.

VT: What type of training is provided?  

SR: The Redwood provided training on child behaviour and the effects of violence on children and always has optional training sessions available, like Crisis Prevention Intervention, which I’ve found to be very helpful.

VT: What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer work?

SR: I’ve been surprised at how quickly you bond with the staff, women and children. This has been the loveliest surprise. The Redwood has become a safe space for me on tough days. In the same way, developing a close bond makes it challenging when the women and children leave, but we are also happy for them.

VT: What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteer work?

SR: Just try it! You'll be surprised by how easily it fits into and enriches your life.

VT: What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteer work?

SR: Patience, compassion and an open-mind (plus a dose of good humour) will help immensely when volunteering.    


Watch this digital story created by Redwood volunteer Yiran Shao about the myths surrounding shelters


Think this volunteer opportunity is restricted to women? Think again! When men volunteer at the Redwood they act as positive role models for the children at the shelter. If you have any more questions about volunteering at the Redwood, including how to start volunteering, visit their webpage.

To look for other volunteer opportunities, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our volunteer advisors.

Tags:  Helping a women's shelter  The Redwood  Toronto  Volunteer in a women's shelter  What's It Like To Volunteer  Women's Shelter 

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