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Volunteering with Mental Illness: 6 Tips to Get You Started

Posted By Lisa Robinson, January 24, 2018
Updated: January 23, 2018
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

 

As I write this, it’s blue Monday—the saddest day of the year. Winter weather and shorter days, especially in January, can have a drastic impact on our mood. Living with mental illness myself, I agree—this time of year is far from easy.

So what’s the good news?

It’s known that community can be an antidote for feeling low. And what better way to connect with others than through volunteering? However, finding a volunteer position can be overwhelming, especially if you’re already feeling down. Knowing this, I’ve put together six tips that can take your volunteer search from blah to yah!

 

Start by listing your skills

Hey you! Yes, you. You have skills, lots of them. So go ahead and write them down. What have you learned from your experiences? You’d be surprised at how valuable your skills are. Take a few minutes to reflect on what a great asset you’ll be as a volunteer.

Determine your intentions

Now that you know that you’ll be a valuable volunteer (see your list!) it’s time to think about what YOU want out of volunteering. Are there any skills you want to learn? A specific neighbourhood where you’d like to give back? Or a cause you feel inspired by? Your answers will help narrow down which roles to apply for. Remember, you should get just as much out of your volunteer experience as you put in. You deserve it!

Find the right fit

Volunteer roles are different everywhere you go. Some are really formal and require a big commitment. If you don’t feel ready, that’s okay! You can always explore other opportunities, there are hundreds of non-profits in the city! Find a volunteer role with expectations that motivate you, not overwhelm you. Not sure you’ve found a good fit? Ask to try out the role. You never know until you’ve given it a shot!

Share your intentions

Remember those intentions you created? Share them. Share them with someone in your social network. Share them with (potential) volunteer managers. By sharing these intentions you’ll get support. And hey, you might even find a volunteer manager that adapts a role for you.

Share your needs

Just as important is to share what your needs are. I’ve personally found it helpful to talk to my volunteer supervisor about living with mental illness. If nothing else, I don’t feel like I have to hide when I’m having a bad day. At best, they might work with you to determine how they can support you in your role. Remember, this is your information to share. Only share if you are comfortable.

Follow your gut

It’s important to listen to your gut feelings. Are you achieving what you intended to in a volunteer role? If not, then don’t do it. But don’t give up either. There is an opportunity out there for everyone!

 

As you embark on your volunteer journey, remember you have valuable skills to give. Consider volunteering this winter, and throughout the year, to feel more connected to others. Explore hundreds of opportunities in Toronto using our volunteer opportunities database.

 

Lisa Robinson, Program DeveloperLisa Robinson  is leading the research and development of Volunteer Toronto's first ever placement support program to help Torontonians that are facing barriers to achieving their volunteering goals. Whether they are new to Canada, have accessibility challenges, or find it hard to navigate computers the program is being designed to give everyone the resources they need to find a meaningful and supportive volunteer role.

Tags:  Give Back  Help finding a volunteer position  how do I get a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  Make a Difference  Mental Health  Questions about volunteering  Respect  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer 

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Ask Kelly: Why Do I Need to Apply to Volunteer?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 20, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly Harbour is our in-house expert on all things volunteering. Got a burning question? She’s here to help!

Submit your question to info@volunteertoronto.ca - subject line: Ask Kelly


Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Hey Kelly,

I want to volunteer and give my time in the community. I don’t understand why I need to fill in an application form, attend an interview and possibly do a police check. Isn’t it enough that I want to give my time to help?

Margaret

 


 

Hi Margaret,

Thanks so much for your question. It is a good one. And I’m happy to hear you want to support your community.

Volunteers help non-profits achieve their missions and create change in the community. Majority of non-profits will have an application process to ensure that they find the right volunteer for the role. This benefits the non-profit and the community as they ensure that the person has the right skills, experience and personality for the position. This can also benefit you as a volunteer as you’ll be placed in a role that suites your skills and interests.

By asking for application forms, resumes or cover letters the non-profit will learn more about your skills and experience related to the volunteer position. Interviews especially are a great way for them to learn more about your passion for the cause, your interest in the role and your strengths.

If you want to volunteer to help seniors, children, people with disabilities or others who might be considered vulnerable you will be asked to do a police check. The non-profit does this to make sure that they aren’t taking on a volunteer who has a history of hurting people. The non-profit may also ask for references which are other people who can give feedback on your skills and working style.

Here are a few examples to further explain:

  • Petra would like to be a Social Media Volunteer. To apply for the position she needs to send in a resume and cover letter, showcasing examples of social media posts and marketing she’s done before. She'll also need to attend an interview. The non-profit takes these steps to learn more about Petra’s experience and skills to ensure that Petra would represent the non-profit well online.
  • Mark wants to volunteer as a Presenter. For the role he needs to fill in an application form, come to an interview where he does a mock presentation, answer questions about his presentation and then provide two references. The application process includes these steps so the non-profit can learn about the volunteer’s experience, make sure Mark is a good presenter and see if Mark can answer questions well. They also want to speak to other people who know Mark in order to confirm his skills.
  • Rose would like to volunteer as a Friendly Visitor and provide companionship to seniors in their homes. Rose has to send in an application form that includes why she wants this role, she'll also go to two interviews and file a police reference check. This is because the organization wants to make sure that Rose is a friendly and caring person, who will connect well with a senior, and won’t do anything to steal from, harm or hurt the senior she’s visiting.

Margaret, I hope this information is helpful for you. Don’t let the application process stop you from seeking out a great volunteer opportunity. And remember the process exists to make sure you’re a great fit for the role and the role is a great fit for you!

All the best is seeking out a meaningful volunteer opportunity,

Kelly 

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly Harbour is Volunteer Toronto's Community Engagement Coordinator. She coordinates a team of hardworking volunteers who represent Volunteer Toronto at community events. She is the voice of our Volunteer Times newsletter and assists the many events and programs we organize to inspire people in Toronto to volunteer.

Tags:  applying to volunteer  Ask Kelly  Frequently Asked Questions  how do I get a volunteer position  How long does it take to find a volunteer position  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  Questions about volunteering  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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10 Places You Can Volunteer to Support Mental Health

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 15, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes | Written by Kasandra James

 

Mental health and mental illness affect people from all walks of life and in countless ways. While confronting mental health can be overwhelming, there are many ways to support mental health as a volunteer and make an impact in other’s lives. Check out these Toronto organizations and find out how you can give your time, skills and abilities to support their mental health programs:

 

Cota supports adults with mental health and cognitive challenges, helping them to live well within their communities. They provide services including supportive housing, short-term residential beds and day programs.

  • Location: Numerous sites across Toronto
  • How you can volunteer: Cota is often recruiting Adult Day Services Assistants who engage clients in meaningful activities to explore their strengths and develop new skills.

Davenport-Perth Neighbourhood and Community Health Centre is a multi-service agency in Toronto’s West End, providing health and community support services for infants, children, youth and seniors.

  • Location: Davenport Road and Old Weston Road 
  • How you can volunteer: As a Community Dining Assistant, you’ll help with set-up, clean-up and cooking for Wednesday community dinners. 

Family Service Toronto helps people facing a variety of life challenges, by assisting families and individuals through counselling, community development, advocacy and public education programs.

  • Location: Numerous sites across Toronto
  • How you can volunteer: As an Options Program Tutor and Life Skills Coach, you’ll maintain a supportive, friendly relationship with individuals who face mental health challenges. 

Fred Victor fosters long-lasting positive change in the lives of homeless and low-income people living across Toronto. Their services include: affordable housing, emergency shelter, job training and counselling, and community mental health outreach and services.

  • Location: Downtown East, multiple sites
  • How you can volunteer: Arts/Craft Instructors conduct weekly sessions with community members. 

Massey Centre is an infant and early childhood mental health organization supporting pregnant and parenting adolescents, aged 13-25, and their babies. Their programs include pre-and-post natal residential care, primary health care and maternal infant mental health.

  • Location: Broadview Avenue and Danforth Avenue
  • How you can volunteer: Parent Relief Volunteers provide basic child care while young mothers take much-needed breaks or run errands. 

Senior Persons Living Connected (SPLC) provides programs and services that meet the diverse needs of older adults and their caregivers. Services include seniors housing, counselling and social, recreational and fitness programs.

  • Location: Warden Avenue and Finch Avenue
  • How you can volunteer: Friendly Visitors spend time with seniors, engaging in conversation and leisure activities. 

SickKids Centre for Community Mental Health (formerly The Hincks-Dellcrest Centre) combines prevention, treatment, research and education to support children, youth and families facing mental health challenges.

  • Location: Keele St. and Sheppard Avenue West or Jarvis St. and Wellesley St. East
  • How you can volunteer: Research Assistants contribute to CCMH’s inter-disciplinary, evidenced-based mental health treatment and support system. 

The Gatehouse provides support, community and resources for individuals impacted by childhood sexual abuse, including an Investigation Support Program, Art Therapy and the Transforming Trauma Conference.

  • Location: Lakeshore Blvd. and Kipling Avenue
  • How you can volunteer: Give your time as a Peer Support Group Facilitator, supporting those impacted by childhood sexual abuse. 

Victim Services Toronto provides immediate crisis response, intervention and prevention services to individuals, families and communities affected by crime and sudden tragedies. Programs include The Trauma Dog Program, High Risk Support Services and Teens Ending Abusive Relationships (TEAR).

  • Location: Yonge St. and College St.
  • How you can volunteer: Crisis Counsellor Volunteers work alongside professional crisis counsellors to support victims in Toronto. 

Yorktown Family Services is dedicated to providing effective, accessible, quality mental health treatment, prevention and outreach services to children, youth, women and families. The agency is divided into a Child and Family Centre and a Shelter for Women and their children, fleeing abusive relationships.

  • Location: Dufferin St. and Eglinton Avenue West 
  • How you can volunteer: Walk-In Clinic Counsellors bring their professional counselling experience to the Family Centre and Shelter, on a monthly or bi-monthly basis. 

Is your perfect volunteer role not in this list? Most of these organizations have multiple volunteer opportunities, so make sure you visit their websites to find out more. If you still can’t find the right fit, search Volunteer Toronto’s database using the keywords “mental health” or contact our Referral Counsellor at 416-961-6888 x 232 or referral@volunteertoronto.ca.

 


Kasandra JamesAs Volunteer Toronto’s Subscriptions Coordinator, Kasandra James is the first point of contact for non-profits looking for support. She facilitates monthly Subscriber Circles - discussion groups for managers and coordinators of volunteers, contributes to our Sector Space newsletter and social media communications, and makes sure our subscriptions package continues to help non-profit organizations build capacity through volunteer involvement. 

Tags:  Abuse Stories  Activism  Activists  Anti-Bulling  Frequently Asked Questions  friendly visitor  Give Back  health care volunteer positions  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  Leadership  Make a Difference  Mental Health  Mentorship  Questions about volunteering  skilled volunteering  Skills  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteer leaders  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  Ways to volunteer 

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Why Group Volunteering isn't as Easy as You Think

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, December 15, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes | Written by Melina Condren

In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more for-profit organizations seek out group volunteering in order to boost employee engagement and expand their social responsibility strategies. Unfortunately, finding a volunteer opportunity for your team AND making a big impact with a non-profit partner isn’t always easy.

On a practical level, many non-profits simply don’t have the space to accommodate a crowd of people. In addition to taking a lot of space, it also takes a lot of time and effort to organize team opportunities. Between planning a task, making sure everyone is properly trained, setting up and cleaning up the space, and all the other responsibilities that are part of holding a successful large-scale event, many volunteer managers don’t have the time to invest in group volunteering. Finally, the type of work that can get done by a group in one day isn’t always the type of work that’s needed most.

To make sure your volunteer experience steers clear of these pitfalls, here are five tips to get you started in planning meaningful, high-impact group volunteering:

 

Plan ahead

We get a lot of last-minute inquiries about group volunteer opportunities, but the truth is that many of them fill up months in advance. Start planning early to make sure that you find an opportunity that aligns with your organization’s mission and values, and to give the non-profit you’re working with plenty of time to prepare.

Split up into teams

Finding two volunteer opportunities for twenty people may be easier than finding one opportunity for forty. If you have a large group and you want everyone to volunteer, consider breaking up into smaller teams and helping out a few different causes. You’ll be able to choose from a much wider range of non-profits to work with, since so many can’t accommodate crowds.

Be prepared to donate money, not just time

Engaging large groups of volunteers takes a lot of time, effort, and resources, so the return on investment just isn’t worth it for many non-profits. Be prepared to make a financial contribution to help cover the costs of the staff time and resources that are being invested to make your volunteer experience successful or donate the food and supplies for the program you’re assisting with. For example, if you volunteer to pack welcome bags with toiletries, towels and pyjamas for a shelter, you might be expected to donate the supplies, not just the time it takes to pack them.

Build lasting partnerships

There are many different ways that employers can support volunteering and give back to their communities—not just by having a big, one-day volunteer event. You could organize a recurring fundraising event and donate the proceeds to a charitable partner, getting your employees involved by contributing or helping to coordinate the fundraiser. Or, you could encourage your employees to volunteer individually in ongoing programs for causes they care about, and support them in doing so with flexible work hours or extra time off. You could even volunteer as a team for the same organization each year, helping to plan, staff and provide the supplies for an annual event. Whatever you choose to do, making an ongoing commitment to a non-profit that goes beyond a single day of service is one of the best ways to make a meaningful impact.

Learn best practices

If you’re reading this blog post, you probably want to learn more about how to incorporate volunteering into your organization. As a next step, I recommend taking a look at the Canadian Code for Employer Supported Volunteering. It’s a great resource put together by Volunteer Canada that provides guidance to help you establish or improve an employer supported volunteer program.

 

Group volunteering isn’t easy, but when it’s done well it can be a great way to make a difference and give back. By following these five tips, you’ll be well on your way to creating a volunteer experience that your team, and the non-profit you support, will be grateful for.

 

  Melina oversees all of Volunteer Toronto's services for organizations, including our training program, volunteer management conference, subscriptions program, and new Grassroots Growth project. Her priority is to ensure our services are effectively helping non-profits build capacity through volunteer involvement and continue to meet the ever-evolving needs of the voluntary sector.

Tags:  Activism  applying to volunteer  Career  City of Toronto Development  Event Volunteering  Give Back  group volunteering  How to give back  How to start volunteering  how to volunteer  How to volunteer in Toronto  How to volunteer to help the homeless  Leadership  Make a Difference  Office Volunteer  poverty reduction  Questions about volunteering  short-term volunteering  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Skills  Toronto volunteers  types of volunteer positions  Volunteer  volunteer engagement  volunteer for one day  Volunteer for the holiday  volunteer in group  Volunteer in Toronto  volunteer leaders  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  volunteers  Ways to volunteer  What's It Like To Volunteer  Work 

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How to Include Volunteer Experience on a Resume

Posted By Volunteer Toronto , November 17, 2017
 Ask Kelly Banner

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes | Written by Mary Walton, volunteer blogger 


Volunteering has so many benefits, both for the community and for the volunteer. Not can you make a difference by helping others, volunteering also gives you the opportunity to build up new skills that can help you bolster your professional experience. Here are some tips for building this experience into your resume:

 

Include both short and long-term volunteering

The first step is thinking about the length of the volunteering work you've done. Was it a one-day event you volunteered at? Or have you held a longer volunteer role?

Many people have done short-term volunteer placements, usually as part of their school education. Don’t forget, you can include this experience on your resume! If you’ve had a few short-term roles, the best way to include them is listing the year you volunteered and organization’s name in a general 'Volunteering Experience' section of your resume.

If you’ve volunteered for a longer period of time in one role, then this should be treated differently on your resume as you can actually expend on what it is you've done at that placement. Longer-term volunteer roles can sit alongside your work experience. Take the opportunity to go into the details of your role at that organization and mention the skills you've built up there—recruiters often value that you’ve shown you can grow and learn new things.

 

Ask yourself, is your volunteering relevant to the job?

Additionally, you should also consider whether the volunteering you’ve completed is relevant to the job you're applying for. Either way, you can include the experience, but the way you'll do so is different—similar to short-term and longer-term roles.

To start, ask yourself if the skills you learned in each volunteer role reflect the job you’re applying for—regardless of short or long-term. If the roles you’ve held aren’t relevant, you can include them in your separate 'Volunteer Experience' section in your resume and list them out as mentioned above. This will show that you've dedicated time to these organizations, and have contributed back to the community in some way.

However, if the volunteering role is directly related to the job you're applying for—again, no matter whether it is short or long term—then take the opportunity to highlight it. Take care to look at the job posting, and see how you can relate your volunteering back to this role. Flush out a description as if you would explain your past work experience. You want to show the recruiter that you have the skills needed for the job. You may also want to mention your longer-term volunteer experience in your cover letter—it can often set you apart from other candidates.

 

Present your best professional self with a well-written resume

Resume editor Adrienne Jones at AustralianHelp says, "To really wow the recruiter, you've not only got to include the volunteer experience you have, but you've got to write that resume well." This is true. It won’t matter how much volunteer experience you have on your resume or the skills you’ve learned, unless the entire resume is presented professionally. Generally, here are some tips to help you get that resume written perfectly, ready for recruiters:

  • Keep it short: Recruiters don't have the time to be ploughing through long resumes. Ensure they read yours by keeping it short and to the point, only including information that's necessary.
  • Format it well: Use plenty of white space, section your resume out well, and use headings and bullet points. Recruiters scanning your resume will then be able to find what they need.
  • Give yourself time to write: Don't write your whole resume at the last minute. The more time you give yourself, the easier it will be to create a good quality document.
  • Always proofread and edit: Your resume needs to be perfect or it could be disregarded. Make the time to edit and proofread your resume, to catch the mistakes before you send it out.
  • If you need an extra hand, check out BoomEssays and EssayRoo for some more resume building resources.

 

With these tips and tricks, we hope you'll consider including volunteer experience in your resume!

 

Mary Walton is an editor at PaperFellows writing center. She has a blog Simple Grad, there she reviews popular online educational services. Mary helps people improve business writing, and proofreads resumes. Also, she is a tutor at Academized educational portal.

Tags:  how to write a volunteer resume  job experience  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  Volunteerism 

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The Volunteer Behind Getting Financial Literacy in the Classroom

Posted By Cara Eaton, September 28, 2017
Updated: August 1, 2017

Daniel Rotsztain Fake Development Proposal

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

 

Prakash Amarasooriya is a volunteer with the Toronto Youth Cabinet. He recently succeeded in campaigning to have financial literacy education added to Ontario’s Grade 10 curriculum. Prakash is one of 25 Toronto volunteers recognized with a 2017 Legacy Award for their exceptional contributions. This is his story as a volunteer.

 

Graduate in flux

In 2015, I graduated with a health sciences degree, but around the same time I decided I wanted to go in a different direction. I actually had my eye on business; I saw there was more of a need to drive meaningful change. So, I applied for 170 jobs. Without success. It was discouraging, but I kept going and trusting the process. In January 2016, I stumbled into a job opportunity at TD with no bank experience.

As the same time, I was watching HBO's TV show, The Wire. Season four was all about flaws in the education system, and I saw a lot of parallels to the real world. I had also seen the memes online joking about how young people were taught about things like parabolas but not how to do their own taxes. They felt they had missed out on learning life skills, and I did too. As my work began at TD, I also started to understand the value of financial literacy. What was a savings account? What is a TFSA? I noticed there were a lot of parents who were not financially stable—always in overdraft, or having loans rejected without knowing why. Without help, they would normalize the problem and pass these patterns onto their children. I realized things needed to change from a young age, and that is when I started to link financial literacy to education.

 Around the same time, I knew I wanted to get involved with the City of Toronto. I typed, “young people getting involved in Toronto” into Google and the Toronto Youth Cabinet showed up. The Toronto Youth Cabinet is a semi-autonomous advisory body to the City of Toronto with a space at City Hall.

 

Wheels in motion

I emailed Tom Gleason, Executive Director of the Toronto Youth Cabinet in January 2016 (also a 2017 Legacy Award recipient). I described the gap I saw in financial literacy, and said that I wanted to get involved. They did not yet have anyone for education, so Tom asked if I wanted to be that guy. A working group was then formed to respond to this need.

After joining, I began the research. What was currently being done? What were people saying regarding financial literacy in Canada? I knew that I wanted to see a tangible change, but I also wanted to identify the path of least resistance. So I developed a proposal. I had no templates or experience, just answers to questions I found along the way. Based on my research (and a couple of epiphany moments), I decided that the Grade 10 careers course would be an obtainable measure of success; a foot-in-the-door to start the financial literacy conversation. So my goal was decided—but how do I get this implemented?

 

Campaigning as a volunteer

My first step: connect with the Toronto school boards. I personally emailed each of the trustees, met with them, developed relationships, and asked them to help me advocate for financial literacy. You’d be surprised how willing people are to speak with you, especially if you reach out with respect and genuine curiosity. Eventually, I met with two Provincial curriculum advisors, but it did not go well. They said they had not heard any complaints regarding the current state of financial literacy in schools.

 

Strategy pivot

Despite the government’s discouraging initial reaction, I knew there was a need that the public would support. So I released a petition supporting the proposal on Thanksgiving 2016, gathering 100 names through my personal Facebook. The next day, I sent a press release to key media representatives. Hours later, CityTV called and wanted to interview me. This led to three weeks of media interviews, during which the petition grew and the government changed their stances, agreeing to meet with me again.

On the day of my last scheduled media interview, I was invited to meet with Mitzie Hunter, the new Minister for Education. It was November 1st (fun fact: I forgot it was my birthday that day). My aim was to approach her as cooperatively as possible, positioning a revision to the careers course as a win-win. She had a few questions, but was in full support of the proposal. The one I created—a youth volunteer—with no template. “Did we just win?” Tom and I asked each other as we left the room. We were excited, but wanted to see the results first.

 

A win, but not the end

Two days later, Minister Hunter tweeted, "We’ve heard you Toronto Youth Cabinet. We’ve accepted your proposal". We had won. And since then, the government has met with me to receive feedback on their plan moving forward. Twenty-eight Ontario schools piloted a new course this past spring. The revised course will formally begin in September 2018.

Reflecting, I am happy the government has committed, but there is still much work to be done. I did this for the people who need it, who signed that petition, and who supported the initiative from the beginning. The course is one thing, but peer-to-peer, and parent-to-child conversations are another. Ultimately, the goal was raising consciousness in having these conversations about money management. I continue to attend financial literacy events and spread the message. Last month, I even became a board member—a goal I set for myself after attending a Volunteer Toronto ‘Becoming a Board Member’ workshop—for the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education.

 

My advice to youth

My advice on work/life/volunteer balance? I only do the things that I know I would fight for when I am beyond exhausted. If you see unmet needs in your community, be agile and work with the administration to drive change. Never take no as your final answer: it's just short for “not this way.” I did not know how my proposal would end up; just that I would fight for as long as it took to succeed. When I get older, I always want to be conscious of not underestimating young people, because I have been in the position where people underestimate just how much I can do. 

 

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Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  Career  City of Toronto Volunteers  How to give back  job experience  Legacy Awards  skilled volunteering  Skilled Volunteers  Teen volunteering  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer  volunteering for youth  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support  Youth Volunteers 

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4 Ways Volunteering Changed My Life

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, February 21, 2017
Updated: February 13, 2017

 Collin J. Rainsbury planting a tree in Mumbai, India during a field trip with UNICEF

Colin J. Rainsbury planting a tree in Mumbai, India while on a field trip with UNICEF

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

I was first introduced to volunteering at the age of six. In London, England during World War II, my parents volunteered by helping to organize community events on weekends in the local school. My sisters and I used to help by serving tea or collecting tickets.

Little did I know how being a volunteer would evolve into such an important and integral part of my life. Over the years, volunteering has helped me develop new skills that I otherwise wouldn’t have had the chance to experience in my day-to-day work.

Here are four ways volunteering changed my life:

 

I Became A Leader

As a young adult, I volunteered as a youth leader in the Boys' Brigade and was also Cadet Officer. This involved program planning and teaching such things as communications, first aid, military skills, as well as organizing gymnastics, games and events. I also served as a Board Member and Secretary for the international youth organization.

 

Collin meeting The Queen & Duke of Edinburgh

Colin meeting Her Majesty the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh as a Cadet Officer (1967)

 

I Got Organized

I chaired, planned, and attended local, provincial, national and international conventions and training conferences. As Board Secretary, I also perfected the art of note-taking.

 Colin Rainsbury with fellows from the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association

Colin (front right) as Secretary for the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association meeting with members from around the Commonwealth (1953)

 

I Got Out Of My Bubble

Being a volunteer gave me the opportunity to meet and learn from people at all levels of society including those from other countries. This was especially true when I emigrated to Canada in 1957.

 Colin Rainsbury talking to local village chief in Kenya

Colin (left) speaking with a local village chief in Kenya while evaluating a UNICEF/Canada project (1975)

 

I Became A Better Public Speaker

All of the above gave me the necessary experiences to improve on my public speaking skills. I learned how to properly speak with the media, as well as develop my presentation abilities on varied subjects to different audiences.

 Colin Rainsbury making a speech

Colin making a speech as Secretary for the Electrical Engineering Apprenticeship Association

 

In 1963, after a two-year working vacation, during which I visited Australia and hitch-hiked from Cape Town to Cairo, I finally returned to Canada after renewing many of my international association friendships along the way.

In Ottawa, I became the Executive Assistant to the General Manager/Chief Engineer of a Crown corporation responsible for public utilities across northern Canada. While my training as an electrical engineer helped, it was due to the additional skills I learned as a volunteer that made me stand out. After receiving the position, I later learned they had had difficulty filling it for some time.

In the following years, because of my new administrative work and continued volunteer experiences, I began to consider switching to non-profit work.

In 1970, UNICEF was looking for its first Canadian Field Director. From the job-description I had the qualifications they were looking for; administrative and public speaking skills, volunteering, plus international experience. I obtained the position and what followed was 26 years of a very satisfying career change.

The work was both challenging and varied. It took me across Canada and eventually, UNICEF Canada became known around the world for its success in developing a national volunteer network of all ages.

It has been a long journey since I was a boy serving tea in 1940 to representing Canada on the international stage, including various disaster zones, but it is a journey that has been well worth it!

 

Collin J. Rainsbury

Colin J. Rainsbury has a wealth of experience not only as a volunteer for over 70 years, but also as the Executive Director for a number of non-profit organizations, both large and small. A number of months ago he changed his focus and joined Volunteer Toronto as a member of the outreach team and enjoys sharing his experiences from both sides of the “volunteer fence” with potential new and returning volunteers. As a "foodie", in his spare time, he updates his own unique “Wine & Dine the Subway” website and assists his partner in running a small but successful business.


Tags:  City of Toronto Volunteers  Toronto  Toronto volunteers  Volunteer  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  Volunteering  volunteering for youth  volunteering in Toronto  Volunteerism  What's It Like To Volunteer  Youth Support 

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Volunteers are the Roots of Strong Communities

Posted By Camara Chambers, Director of Community Engagement, April 11, 2016

National Volunteer Week 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

If you were asked what makes a community great, what would you say? Diversity? Green spaces? Low crime? Clean streets? There are so many things that contribute to making a neighbourhood or city a great one, but the one consistent theme in all of those factors is volunteers.

At Volunteer Toronto, every day we see and hear about the impact volunteers have in Toronto. Volunteers teaching newcomers English, mentors helping jobseekers land their dream jobs, youth raising money for local hospitals, families planting trees together to make the city a little more green. This week, during National Volunteer Week, we want to say thank you to each and every volunteer who has done something to make Toronto a little better this past year. Your efforts don’t ever go unnoticed and Toronto wouldn’t be the same without you.

To mark National Volunteer Week and celebrate the contributions of volunteers, we’re awarding 25 special volunteers with a Volunteer Toronto Legacy Award as recognition of their extraordinary contributions to the city. These volunteers’ have given their time to bring positive change and in the process have inspired others to give back – people like Anthony Morgan who has been a strong advocate for the African Canadian community in Toronto and has raised awareness of issues like discriminatory police carding practices, Charles Grimbleby who for 22 years volunteered as a driver for the Toronto Christian Resource Centre helping to deliver goods around the city for people in need, and Katelyn Luciani who has bravely spoken out about living with a chronic pain condition and inspires others to raise awareness of endometriosis. You can read more about these volunteers and what they’ve done for their communities here.

Volunteers are and will always be the roots of our growing community. They nurture our city and make it the strong and resilient place it is today.

From all the staff at Volunteer Toronto, happy National Volunteer Week!

Camara Chambers manages Volunteer Toronto's public engagement strategy and team. This includes working with community partners, leading large-scale events and overseeing various programs that aim to encourage Torontonians to volunteer. In 2014, the community engagement team helped connect 550,000 people to volunteer positions in Toronto!

Tags:  Canada  Legacy Awards 2016  National Volunteer Week 2016  volunteer  volunteer recognition  volunteering in Toronto  volunteerism  Volunteers of Toronto 

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

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, 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 TreeMobile program 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.

 

Melissa Haughton is a recent graduate who currently works in marketing. She is passionate about writing, cats and helping out in the community. You can connect with her on LinkedIn.

 

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

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The Easiest Resolution to Keep in the New Year

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, December 30, 2015
 

 Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes

 

2016 is almost here! Perhaps, you're planning parties and family dinners or packing your suitcase for a relaxing vacation to end the year. Regardless of what you’re up to now, many people see the approaching New Year as an opportunity for change and self-improvement. Maybe you belong to the 50% of the population who make New Year’s resolutions and (with 2016 fast approaching) you’ve decided to give back to your community and volunteer!!

According to Psychology Today, researchers have found that after two weeks, most people return to their old ways. Although this reality is bleak and discouraging, you aren’t fated to be a part of this group! Below are tips to help you overcome some of the common barriers that people face when doing volunteer work: lack of time and lack of money.     

 

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!

Many Canadians cite a lack of time as a huge deterrent to volunteering. To work around this, try looking for opportunities that are close to home, work or school or use your lunch hour to complete volunteer work. This way, you won’t have to find “extra time” to perform volunteer duties, and you won’t have to travel far to the charitable organization of your choice.

The Volunteer Toronto website has a helpful search feature, which allows you to tailor your search of available volunteer opportunities. To find roles close to you, search using the location field.


GET TO KNOW YOUR COWORKERS 

How about organizing an employee volunteer group at your workplace? Not only would this help you add organization, coordination and leadership skills to your resume, but involving others in your volunteer work will be a great way to get to know each other while keeping you accountable to your goal and making you more likely to keep your New Year’s Resolution.

To find roles you can do in groups with your coworkers, use the category field and select “4. Suitable for Groups”.

 

VOLUNTEER IN YOUR PJ'S!

With virtual volunteering, you can completely eliminate travel time. This option allows you to contribute to an organization from the comfort of your own home (possibly in your pyjamas and bunny slippers!). Don’t have a computer or a laptop? You can reserve a computer at your local public library… for free! Your travel costs will be reduced if your local library is much closer to you than the volunteer organization. Not tech savvy? Not to worry, organizations not only need people to contribute technical tasks (e.g. online research or website design) but allow people to perform non-technical tasks like virtual visiting and tutoring.

Try doing a keyword search of “virtual” to find roles where you can volunteer from home.

 

SPEND TIME WITH FAMILY

Between working full time, commuting long hours to the office and doing household chores, most of us want to spend the precious free time we do have with our families. Even if we are willing to sacrifice some of that free time for a good cause, it’s a hassle to find someone to watch the kids; it can also be an added cost. To overcome both the time and money issues associated with volunteering, why not involve the whole family? Not only will this activity provide bonding time, but it will teach children the concept of altruism, encourage teamwork and allow older children to add the skills gained from the experience to their blossoming resumes.  

To find roles suitable for families, use the category field and select “2. Suitable for Families (Parents and Kids)”.

 

Need more help? Volunteer Toronto has referral counsellors who can help you find the opportunity that works for you, helping you to keep that New Year’s Resolution! 

 

 

 

Samantha Glave is a writer and editor whose work is regularly published on the Ontario Public Service’s intranet.
When she’s not writing, you can find her watching science-fiction, doing kettle bell workouts or reading the
latest research on raising the ‘strong-willed’ child. She lives in Toronto with her husband and their six-year old son. 
You can find her on LinkedIn

 

Tags:  Give Back  How to volunteer in Toronto  Keeping Your New Years Resolution  Make a Difference  New Years 2016  New Years Resolutions  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering in the New Year  Volunteerism 

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