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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 You Can Help Syrian Refugees in Toronto

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, November 24, 2015
Updated: November 24, 2015
 
 Photo from egyptianstreets.com
 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes 

Back in February, I attended a small gathering at my church to hear about the possibility of sponsoring a family from Syria. I had been following the uprising in the news and felt drawn to help in whatever way I could. The facilitator explained the steps involved and the commitment we would have to make in supporting the family as a private sponsor. It seemed like a lot of work, but the group was ready and willing to try.

Fast forward to today and our small group has expanded to over 30 members, including partners from a Toronto mosque, two grade schools and a group of lawyers and friends ready to make a difference. We are well on our way to sponsoring 3 families and there is a big possibility that we can sponsor a 4th or 5th family. The outpouring of generosity and love has been astounding. People are coming out of nowhere to give their support. It makes me extremely proud to live in Toronto. 

Now, with the Canadian Government committing to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees, there is a lot of work to be done and help needed. 


Here are five things you can do:

VOLUNTEER at organizations that support refugees such as the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, a non-profit which aids survivors in overcoming the lasting effects of torture and war. Based in Scarborough and downtown Toronto, they’re currently looking for volunteers to: befriend survivors of torture as they adjust to life in Toronto, tutor English learners, interpret for those who do not speak English and deliver public presentations to increase the Centre’s visibility. Click here for more info, or contact Juliette at jntege@ccvt.org or 416-750-3045 ext 205.

You can also check out our new volunteer page specifically geared to those looking to volunteer to help refugees, 



GATHER community members and sponsor an individual refugee or family through the government’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program or through the Toronto-based non-profit Lifeline Syria. Also, there are great information sessions offered through ORAT - Office for Refugees, Archdiocese of Toronto to help you understand and prepare for sponsorship. 

UPDATE: Welcome Ontario is another great site with a plethora of information on ways you can sponsor, donate or volunteer to help!


 

SUPPORT Toronto-based organizations like:

Toronto Friends of Refugees

Matthew House

Sojourn House

Romero House

Christie Refugee Welcome Centre

FCJ Refugee Centre

West Neighbourhood House

Adam House

 

TRIEC

Turtle House Art/Play Centre

CultureLink

Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office

Albion Neighbourhood Services

University Settlement

Warden Woods Community Centre

Furniture Bank 

W
oodgreen

 

DONATE to international aid organizations serving on the frontlines.

RESEARCH any local groups or organizations in your area already working to sponsor refugees. Organizations that are Sponsorship Agreement Holders (SAH) are allowed to privately sponsor refugees. The Canadian Government has an extensive list of all the SAH holders in Canada. Donate money or offer your time to help them. It truly takes a village to sponsor a family. 

 

The City of Toronto has just launched a website with information on all the services available to sponsors and refugees. This will be updated with new information on a regular basis

The charities, local agencies and SAH's are not exhaustive but are meant to increase your awareness of the possibilities.


 

Tags:  Donate to help Syrian refugees  How to help Syrian Refugees in Toronto  Refugee sponsorship  refugees  syrian refugee crisis  Toronto  volunteer  Volunteer with refugees 

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