“When you are healthy and have energy that is when you can give back.” This is what someone told me when we were talking about his involvement in designing, and volunteering for a patient peer support program. He had gone through extensive treatment for a chronic illness and wanted to help others who are just starting down the same difficult healing journey.
Volunteers are amazing people, they give so much of themselves without any expectations for something in return. They touch the lives of so many people, with a spirit that will be remembered by each person. But they do get something in return – a connection to others, the gratification of helping someone, and a sense of accomplishment.
According to Volunteer Canada, only 13% of Canadians have never volunteered and 44% of Canadians volunteered close to 2 billion hours in 2013. This is truly something to celebrate! Of course, this number varies by age group, as do the benefits and the reasons for volunteering.
With mandatory volunteer service for high school students, you may think that this group does the minimum hours to meet the requirements for their diploma. However, they are more engaged, doing 44% more hours than mandated. There are many reasons for this, from needing to develop skills and experience to networking. This is important in a highly competitive job market. However, when you look at the breadth of issues this group supports, it shows that they are active both in their community and are global citizens which could continue into their university years and beyond.
The promotion of lifelong volunteering has been aided by workplace volunteer programs which gives employees opportunities to support charities either with paid volunteer days off or during working hours. Many of Canada’s major corporations now have volunteer programs that encourage staff to volunteer for a charity of their choice or to participate in a corporate initiative. These programs aim to increase employee engagement and loyalty while supporting a worthwhile cause.
I would say that people raising families naturally focus on the needs of their families by volunteering for their children’s school or related causes – when they find the time! This has its own set of motivations and benefits including helping their children succeed, connecting with other parents and helping to build up the community.
Seniors are certainly a major force when it comes to volunteering, contributing 39% of all hours. They embody the spirit of volunteering, giving where they can to make a difference through their compassion and touch many lives with caring and kindness. You only have to look at your local hospital to see how much seniors volunteer. While most people only see them at the information desks and gift shops, what they don’t realize is that they provide support to patients in all areas of the hospital.
If you want to touch the past, touch a rock. If you want to touch the present, touch a flower. If you want to touch the future, touch a life.
Note: All statistics come from Volunteer Canada