By Laurie Taniguchi
Communication and Volunteer Manager
When youth apply to volunteer with us at St. Alban’s, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find out how many of them have already completed the 40 community hours required for high school graduation. More and more young people are realizing that getting into the post secondary program of their choice and acquiring a part time job is not always easy. Volunteering is an excellent way to get real world experience while contributing to your community and city at agencies like ours that need the extra help.
Since National Volunteer Week is coming up from April 12-18, we’d like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers who so generously give their time, skills, and expertise to improve the St. Alban’s community. A special thanks to all the youth volunteers who help us out in the after school and camp programs and bring all their energy and new ideas to the programs!
For those of you who are thinking about getting started with volunteering, either at St. Alban’s or another community organization, I’d like to discuss some of the benefits of volunteering:
While doing the research to find out where you can volunteer, you’ll find out lots about your community and neighbours. It makes a lot of sense to volunteer close to where you go to school or where you live so that it’s easy to travel to and from. You’ll find out things you never knew about your community. It’s always my advice that youth use the opportunity to expand their horizons and find out about an organization that they are unfamiliar with. While we are happy when former members of St. Alban’s want to come back and volunteer, I also tell our regular youth members to try something different. Now is your chance to find out all you can about what’s going on in your city.
You will learn important job skills.
It’s pretty obvious that starting off as a volunteer can lead to paid employment. In fact, many of the staff at St. Alban’s started off by volunteering here. But, even if you don’t go on to work at the organization you volunteer for, you will learn many useful job skills that can be added to your resume.
- Keeping track of fundraising expenses, donations and donor information? “Proficient at the use of Microsoft Excel.”
- Answering phones and dealing with incoming visitors? “Excellent customer service representative.”
- Stocking shelves with non-perishable food items at a food bank? “Independent worker, able to complete tasks without supervision.”
- Filing patient records at a hospital? “Strong attention to detail”
- Assisting with a soccer program in a children’s recreation centre? “Strong, safety minded sports instructor with outstanding leadership skills.”
- Organizing a 5km run, raising money for a local charity? “Highly organized event planner who is able to work efficiently as part of a team.”
Not only will you learn specific job skills like the ones listed above, you will also learn a lot about being a responsible employee. It doesn’t matter if you are getting paid or not, the responsibilities of being a volunteer and an employee are very similar. You’ll need to be reliable and show up on time for your scheduled shift. You’ll learn about working as part of a staff team and the importance of communication. You’ll also learn what it’s like to receive constructive feedback, and how to persevere through any challenges that may come up.
You’ll meet new people and make new friends.
It’s always great to expand your horizons and meet new people. I see a lot of our younger volunteers connecting with each other and becoming friends during the course of their placement. It’s nice to see people bonding over a common interest.
It will help you make some decisions about future career options.
Sometimes it seems like there is a lot of pressure on youth to figure out where they want to go to school and what they want to do so early! Volunteering while you are still in high school is a great way to try different things, to see what you like and don’t like. It’s not just the type of organization you volunteer for and the role you are doing. Volunteering can also help you figure out some likes and dislikes about other aspects of working – do you like working in a casual environment or a formal one? Do you enjoy working early in the morning, or late at night? Do you like working with a whole bunch of people or do you prefer working more independently? Do you like working with kids, animals, or seniors? Do you like working in an office or outdoors? Some of these things are difficult to know unless you give it a try.
It feels good to give back and help others!
It can feel amazing to know that you have worked hard, and that your efforts are making a difference in your community. Getting a start with volunteering while you are young can lead to a lifelong commitment to helping out those in need and getting involved in your community.
If you are interested in gaining experience working with children in a recreation setting, the Youth Volunteer Program at St. Alban’s might be for you! This summer, volunteers will come in for one of two three week sessions. They will assist in the children’s summer camp program while gaining valuable training and job skills. Interested? Apply today!