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4 Ways Volunteering Changed My Life

Posted By Colin J. Rainsbury, Outreach Volunteer, 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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Celebrating Our 60+ Volunteers on International Volunteer Day

Posted By Roxanne English, Community Engagement Assistant, December 5, 2016
Updated: December 2, 2016
 International Volunteer Day 2016

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Volunteers are the roots of strong communities. Just like roots are essential for trees to bloom, volunteers are essential for communities to boom. The United Nation’s International Volunteer Day, started in 1985, is a global celebration of volunteers.

Locally, nationally and internationally, volunteers are leaders in social change everyday. At Volunteer Toronto our work varies, from being a face in the community engaging Torontonians to volunteer, to organizing and facilitating conferences and training session for various organizations. Yes, we do a lot! But we must give our 60+ volunteers a round of applause. Without them working relentlessly we couldn’t be what we are today.

Here's a sampling of some of our amazing volunteers:

 

Tal

Tal joined the Community Engagement team in September, and provides a key role in helping us compile our evaluation stats, conducting research for our programs, and providing administrative support for events. A key project he has been working on is inputting data from recent workshops which we then analyze to determine how we can amend them to better help the communities we serve. He always has an enthusiastic, friendly, warm demeanour and is a welcome addition to our team.



Cathy

Cathy has been an Outreach Volunteer with us at Volunteer Toronto since September 2015. In her role, Cathy uses her fantastic interpersonal skills and presentation experience to inform and inspire people across the city to volunteer. Cathy attends volunteer fairs, job fairs, and special events and gives presentations to various members of the public. With Cathy’s assistance Volunteer Toronto is able to outreach to more than 8,000 people every year.  

 


Seher


Seher holds a variety of volunteer roles at Volunteer Toronto. As our Youth Social Media Coordinator, she manages our Volunteer Toronto Youth social media accounts, updating them regularly with new volunteer opportunities available to youth all over Toronto. In her role as a Youth Auditor she works in a team to go into non-profits and assess how well they work with high school volunteers. They then write a report that gives the organizations feedback on their volunteer program, and provide recommendations for improvement. She, also, has been instrumental in the planning of our Youth Expo. .  

 

A big shout out to all the amazing volunteers around the world. We want to thank you all for your time, dedication and willing spirits. 

 

Roxanne EnglishRoxanne English supports Volunteer Toronto’s community outreach by coordinating events, delivering presentations on how to volunteer, and representing Volunteer Toronto at events across this city. With Roxanne’s help, we’ll be able to provide more people with information about volunteering in Toronto.

Tags:  High School Volunteers  International Volunteer Day  Office Volunteer  Outreach Volunteer  Volunteer  Volunteer at Volunteer Toronto  Volunteer Toronto  Youth Volunteers 

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Ask Kelly - Can I Use My Financial Experience To Volunteer At A Bank?

Posted By Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator, October 11, 2016
 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 DeVries 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

Hello Kelly,

I am interested in volunteering for a bank to use my financial experience. I am having trouble finding a bank I can volunteer at. Can you please help me? 

 Sincerely,

Arshna

 


 

Hello, Arshna

Thank you so much for your email. I am glad to hear that you are interested in volunteering. To answer your question, no you cannot volunteer in a bank.  

The reason for this is that banks are for-profit companies. For-profit companies are businesses that seek to make revenue. Some examples of for-profits include banks, tech companies, engineering firms, and retail stores. You cannot volunteer at these companies. 

At Volunteer Toronto we promote volunteer opportunities at non-profit organizations.

Non-profits are organizations that exist to serve a cause or a community. They do not exist to make money. There are many non-profits across our city. Their purpose could include reducing worldwide hunger, providing tutoring in the community or promoting caring for the environment. The opportunities are endless! All the volunteer opportunities you can find on our website are with non-profit organizations.

If you would like to volunteer and use your financial experience, a few possibilities include:

  • Volunteering on a committee that needs someone with a financial background (Category: Boards/Committees)
  • Assisting an organization with a fundraising campaign (Category: Fundraising)
  • Mentoring a newcomer or youth who wants to learn more about the finance field (Category: Counselling/Mentoring)

If you need any additional assistance I encourage you tosign-up for our newsletter, attend an information session or contact a Referral Counsellor.

Many thanks Arshna,

Kelly 

 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly DeVries 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:  skilled volunteering  Toronto  Volunteer  volunteer in a bank  volunteer in a profession  volunteering 

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What's It Like To Volunteer As... A Friendly Visitor?

Posted By Kate Baird, Volunteer Guest Blogger, September 19, 2016

Kensington Gardens - Friendly Visitor 
Photo courtesy of Kensington Gardens

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

 

Volunteering is a great way to make new connections, but one popular position provides a unique chance to give and grow at the same time. Friendly visiting is a meaningful way to come together with people outside your normal social circle, and make a difference in their lives.

Friendly visitors provide company to people at risk of isolation. They might share a pot of tea with seniors who live alone, play a game of cards with adults facing health problems, or stop in for a chat with those who have mobility challenges.

Amalia Caballero
Amalia Caballero

Nineteen-year-old Amalia Caballero is a friendly visitor at Kensington Gardens, a not-for-profit long-term care home in the heart of the city. Amalia took the time to share some of her friendly visiting experiences with us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How would you describe your current volunteer role to someone who has not heard of your organization and has never volunteered before?

At the Kensington Gardens, our main goal is to provide quality care for all the residents. I visit a few of them every week to have meaningful conversations and participate in stimulating activities together..

 

What is the time commitment involved?


I typically volunteer two hours every week.

 

Can you tell us about the training provided?

Training consists of online modules that are constantly being updated. There is also in-person training that ensures we can safely interact with residents. The online modules can be completed at your own pace, while the in-person training lasts two hours.

 

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

In order for friendly visits to be successful, one must be really patient and truly enjoy interacting with new people every day.

 

What have you learned from your volunteering?

I believe that by volunteering at Kensington Gardens, I have learned to listen to the people that surround me. I now understand that words carry a huge value, and they are wasted when no one stops to listen.

 

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

The most challenging experience is accepting that not all residents wish to have a friendly visitor. Some residents are happier with a nice bed and a good nap!

 

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

People believe that working with seniors is boring, but I can assure them that the residents have the funniest stories and anecdotes to share.


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

I would advise anyone who wants to volunteer as a friendly visitor to find a nursing home that resonates with him or her. The most important thing about visiting residents is to be happy, and this can only happen if you enjoy going to the facility!.


What do you like most about volunteering for this Kensington Gardens? 

I love volunteering at Kensington Gardens, because this is where I have met the most amazing people! The residents that I visit bring a smile to my face every time I see them.

 

Are you interested in becoming a Friendly Visitor? Check out our Volunteer Opportunities page and search under the category "Visiting/Accompanying Positions." 


Attend any of our free information sessions on volunteering in Toronto!

 

Kate Baird is a fantastic communications professional and self-proclaimed supervolunteer. By day, she works in issues management. By night, she saves the world and edits newsletters for Volunteer Toronto.

 

Tags:  Friendly visiting  health care volunteer positions  senior care volunteer positions  toronto  types of volunteer positions  volunteer  volunteering for youth 

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Ask Kelly - What is a Referral Counsellor?

Posted By Kelly DeVries, Community Engagement Coordinator, August 15, 2016
Updated: August 12, 2016
 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 DeVries 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



Dear Kelly,

 

I heard that Volunteer Toronto has Referral Counsellors we can meet with one-on-one to talk about our volunteer interests. What exactly happens in this meeting?

Antoniette

 



Hello Antoniette,

Thank you so much for your email and your interest in our Referral Counsellor services at Volunteer Toronto.

Referral Counsellor Vivian helping a client at Volunteer Toronto
 Referral Counsellor Vivian (right) helping a client

Our Referral Counsellors are wonderful volunteers who come in one day a week to support people who are looking to volunteer. The Referral Counsellors are knowledgeable about volunteering and are here to answer your questions and provide suggestions of where to apply. This can be done in-person, over the phone or through email.

If you contact a Referral Counsellor they will ask questions to further understand what kind of opportunity you are interested in and will follow our Reflect, Research and Reach Out model for finding a suitable position. They will also show you how to navigate the website and provide tips for searching through our volunteer opportunities database. There is no need to bring anything along with you to the appointment, but I do encourage you to think a bit about what you’re interested in.

The Referral Counsellors aim to provide 4-6 suggestions of opportunities to apply to based on our current listings.

After speaking with a Referral Counsellor it is up to you to take the initiative and apply directly to the organization you are interested in. This is listed under the “How to Apply/Contact” section of each listing. Please note that the Referral Counsellor will not match you directly with any opportunities, nor do they do any of the screening for the position.

After providing suggestions of opportunities and helping answer your questions, the Referral Counsellors will strive to ensure that you understand the next steps in the application process.

Our goal at Volunteer Toronto is that people feel empowered to begin volunteering and the Referral Counsellors are a large part of making that happen! Feel free to contact a Referral Counsellor if you have questions or need some assistance while looking for a volunteer position. They can be reached at 416-961-6888 ext 232 or referral@volunteertoronto.ca.

Thanks so much for your excellent question Antoniette!

Kelly 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly DeVries 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:  Help finding a volunteer position  How to start volunteering  Referral Counsellor  volunteer  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer Toronto services 

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Ask Kelly - What Is A Reference? Who Would Make A Good Reference?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator, July 11, 2016
Updated: July 8, 2016
 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 DeVries 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



Dear Kelly,

 

I am interested in volunteering in an office environment, and I see several postings say that I will need to provide references. What is a reference? Who would be a good a reference?

Thanks!

Singh

 



Hello Singh,

Thank you so much for your email and your interest in volunteering. You ask a great question that we receive often. When you are going through the application process for a volunteer position, if the organization is interested in offering you the position, the organization may ask for references.

References are people that can answer questions about your character, your work ethic, your skills and how well you will do the role. Organizations ask for references as another way of ensuring you’re a good fit for the position.

When choosing who will be a reference for you, think about someone who knows you well and can speak to your work-related qualities.  Ideally a reference is someone who has known you in a supervisory role including a past employer, volunteer coordinator, teacher, professor, landlord, caseworker or a coach. If this isn’t possible, for a volunteer position, you could also include references who are friends. It is usually okay if your references are not in Canada. You should not include family members as references for volunteer positions.

If you aren’t sure, don’t be afraid to ask the organization what kind of reference they are looking for. A professional reference would be someone you worked with, and a personal reference would be a friend.

Also, volunteering can be a great way to gain a new reference. If you do your role well, you may be able to have the volunteer coordinator or staff supervisor you work with be a future reference for you.

Hope that helps Singh. Best of luck as you pursue an office volunteer position, 


Kelly 

 

Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly DeVries 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:  volunteer  volunteer interview  volunteer reference  volunteer screening  volunteering to find work 

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What's It Like To Volunteer For...The Egale Youth OUTreach Counselling Centre

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, 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. 

 

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

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Ask Kelly - How Do I Find Out About Volunteering For Special Events?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator, May 16, 2016
Updated: May 13, 2016
 Ask Kelly Banner

 

“Ask Kelly” is our new blog series aimed at answering your most pressing volunteer questions. As Volunteer Toronto’s Community Engagement Coordinator, Kelly DeVries 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: 4 minutes

Dear Kelly,

 

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,

LaKeisha

 

 



Hey LaKeisha,

What a wonderful email and question to receive. I am so glad 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 www.volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities.



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.

I 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 Referral Counsellor 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. I hope you have an absolutely wonderful birthday! 

Best, 

Kelly


Kelly Devries, Community Engagement CoordinatorKelly DeVries 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:  one-day events  volunteer  volunteer for birthday  volunteer for one day  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer questions  volunteering on special events 

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Making Your Court-Ordered Community Services Hours Time Well Spent

Posted By Andre MacKay, Guest Blogger, 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. 


Andre lives and works in Toronto. 

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

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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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I Love My Pink Shirt!

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, February 8, 2016
Updated: February 5, 2016
 
 Founders of Pink Shirt Day - Photo courtesy of Pink Shirt Day

 

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes  

 

February 24 is Pink Shirt Day, a national day to raise awareness about bullying. Pink Shirt Day was started in Nova Scotia in 2007 when a male student wore a pink t-shirt on the first day of school and was bullied about being gay. Two senior students overhearing this, mobilized their school community to respond and the next day hundreds of students came to school wearing pink shirts. This awesome story showcases students creating community responses to harm and empowering others to do the same!

 

At its root, bullying is about discrimination and believing it’s okay to make fun of someone because they don’t fit into society’s mythical norms. There are many things you can do to empower students and fight the causes of bullying.

 

Here are just 5 ways you can get involved. To find the relevant opportunities available through Volunteer Toronto, search by the Category identified:   

 

Raise Awareness about Discrimination (Advocacy Positions)

Become involved in organizations that raise awareness about the diversity of people’s experiences and seek to create change. Whether it is promoting LGBTQ inclusion, educating about classism or advocating for those who live with disabilities, raising awareness plays an important role in combatting discrimination.

 

Be a Positive Role Model (Counselling/Mentorship Positions)

Mentorship plays an important role in empowering youth and allowing them to feel affirmed and heard. Having a positive role model, outside of school and home, can help youth explore opportunities, work towards goals and develop in exciting new ways!

 

Participate in Extracurricular Activities (Artistic Work/Crafting Positions or Recreation/Sports Positions)

Being involved in programming outside of school is imperative for youth with unique gifts and for those who don’t do well in classroom settings. Youth can truly shine learning a new instrument, playing sports or knitting scarves.  Recreational activities outside of school are important for youth’s personal growth and well-being.

 

Tutor Students (Teaching/Tutoring/Assistance Positions)

For some youth, school is difficult because they have trouble with literacy or understanding math and science concepts.  Volunteer tutors play a large role in assisting youth with school work and helping them to better engage with the material in the classroom.

 

Provide Counselling Support (Counselling/Mentorship)

Sometimes youth need someone to talk to. Providing support in-person or over the phone is important, whether in an on-going position or for youth in crisis.

 

On February 24, let’s celebrate those Nova Scotian youth who took a stand for inclusion and help empower other youth to do the same!

 
 Kelly Devries, Community Engagement Coordinator Kelly DeVries 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:  Anti-Bulling  Bulling  Education  Mental Health  Pink Shirt Day  Respect  Role Models  Toronto  Volunteer  Volunteering  Youth Mentorship 

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How You Can Help Syrian Refugees In Toronto

Posted By Ainsley Kendrick, 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.


 

Ainsley Kendrick is the creative voice behind Volunteer Toronto's external communications. She manages their website and social media channels as well as works with all departments to develop key collateral and messaging. Her mission is to reach the furthest corners of the city to let people know about Volunteer Toronto's programs and services.   

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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