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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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The How-To for a First-Time Volunteer: Ace it, Enjoy it.

Posted By Helen Lin, Youth Auditor, October 23, 2016
Updated: October 22, 2016
Teens heart shape 

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes 

 

Once I was a shy, naive, volunteering newbie…

But since then I’ve woken up at 5am for shifts, dedicated hundreds of hours of service, experienced volunteering at a handful of nonprofit organizations...and made every mistake in the book.

Now that you’ve been to the Youth Expo and gotten a good sense of what nonprofits and roles are out there, the time has come to volunteer. Volunteering is so different from going to school, because now you’re actually faced with real world challenges!

Here are 6 tips to help reduce the challenges, so you’re just left with facing the real world. (Sorry, there’s nothing I can do about that; you’ll have to face it sooner or later.)

 

1. Pre-Shift Reflection: Did You Pick the Right Volunteer Position?

There’s nothing worse than not enjoying your first shift, especially since volunteering is supposed to be both fun and meaningful. Before you agree to volunteer with an organization long-term or even short-term, make sure it fits you!

 

 

 

2. Be Prepared and Be On Time.

So you’ve decided to commit to an organization? Great! The best way to show your commitment is by reading up on that volunteer manual (if available) as well as arriving on time or earlier. Don’t be that one volunteer who runs in panting and sweating because they’re 10 minutes late.

 

 

3. Make a Good Impression

First step to first impressions is following #2: Be Prepared, Be On Time. The most impressive first-time volunteers I’ve seen are the ones who walk in already knowing what to expect. Also, do your best to be enthusiastic and follow your supervisor’s directions. If you can do that, you’ll look super dedicated, the volunteer manager will love you, and you might even be asked to help other volunteers who might be experiencing difficulties.

 

4. Don’t Be Shy

Spark conversations. Ask questions. Make friends. Volunteering is so much more enjoyable when you’re with people you’re comfortable with. Being friendly plays a big part in making a good first impression. It may be awkward at first, but trust me, try your best to step out of your comfort zone and initiate a conversation with a fellow volunteer or the manager.
Don’t be shy, Awesome > Comfort Zone.

 

 

5.You Did It, Be Proud!

Has it been three hours already? I hope it was a good experience. Whether you’re doing this for your community service hours, or because your parents made you, pat yourself on the back. You have just taken a big step into the world of social responsibility. It also doesn't hurt to talk about it on social media, the organization you volunteer with would greatly appreciate the exposure especially if you tag them! 

 

 

6. Post-Shift Reflection: Again, Did You Pick the Right Position?

Time for a metacognitive analysis! I mean, self-reflection. How do you feel? If you liked it, hooray! If you didn’t, no problem. Not everything is going to be all rainbows and sunshine, so if this wasn’t the right organization/position for you, don’t worry. Let your volunteer manager know and give as much notice as possible. Hopefully you signed up for more than one organization at the Youth Expo though… if not, Volunteer Toronto has your back.

 

On behalf of staff at Volunteer Toronto, the Youth Advisory Committee, the volunteers who helped put on the event, and the organizations that attended, thanks for coming to the 2016 Youth Expo!

 


Helen Lin is a Grade 10 student at Marc Garneau Collegiate and she is a Youth Auditor at Volunteer Toronto. She started formally volunteering at age 12, and hasn't stopped her community involvement since. Helen has also volunteered for SickKids Foundation, TEDxYouth@Toronto, Ladies Learning Code, and Baycrest Hospital. Her passions include gender rights, sustainable development, global health, social innovation, engineering, and entrepreneurship.


 

Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  40 hours  getting your 40 hours  How to get your 40 hours  volunteer in Toronto  Volunteering  Youth volunteers 

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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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5 Ways to Complete Your High School Community Service Hours This Summer

Posted By Jessica Huynh, Outreach Summer Student, August 1, 2016
Updated: July 29, 2016

High School Community Service Hours”

 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! As we enter August sun-kissed and carefree, the realization of another school year drawing close reminds us of those high school community service hours we (still) have left to complete! Was volunteering on your summer to do list?

Summer is a great time to meet interesting people, develop new skills, and attend events you may have otherwise not known about. Whether you have 5 more hours or the full 40 to knock-off, here’s a list of summer event opportunities that are geared towards high school students.

Slather on some sunscreen and round up your friend, summer isn’t over and neither is your chance to squeeze in some community service! We present to you 5 Ways to Complete Your High School Community Service Hours This Summer:

 

Belmont House - Summerfest 

1. SPECIAL EVENTS VOLUNTEER - SUMMERFEST

Organization: Belmont House


Post Link
: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=311453


Date needed
: Wednesday, 10 August, 2016 (10:30 AM- 3 PM)


Location
: Downtown Toronto – 55 Belmont Street near Bay and Bloor

It’s not Bestival or WayHome, but Summerfest is a celebrative event for elderly residents of the Belmont House. Belmont House is a charity that has been creating a caring environment for seniors for over 150 years! This special event is looking to take on 30 volunteers to assist with their interactive event. Bringing together residents, families, and tenants, it promises to provide a day of food and fun! As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Helping run games

-       Interacting with residents

-       Serving food &

-       Completing various assigned tasks

Interested? Email Purni Rahman, the Development and Volunteer Coordinator at prahman@belmonthouse.comor call 416-964-9231 ext. 220! No resume or cover letter mentioned in posting.

 

 

Habitat For Humanity Build 

2. BUILD SITE VOLUNTEER HOST

Organization: Habitat for Humanity GTA

Post Link: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=379235


Date(S) needed
: 11, 17, 18, & 25 August 2016 (8-4p)


Location
: Scarborough – Birchmount Road & Brampton


Who doesn’t love free refreshments, lunch, and t-shirts? In addition to these lovely incentives, your dedication as a Build Site Volunteer Host will contribute to helping provide low-income families the opportunity to build and buy affordable, quality home. As of April 2014, Habitat for Humanity GTA has built over 270 affordable within Toronto!  Through special events occurring throughout August, your friendly and professional attitude will be of assistance to the organization. As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Supporting registrations

-       Setting up breakfast, lunch, and fun activities for volunteer groups

-       Taking photographs and distributing prizes

-       Cleaning up and preparing for the next event

-       And more!


Super Car Sunday 

3. SUPER CAR SUNDAY VOLUNTEER (VARIOUS ROLES)

Organization: Women’s College Hospital Foundation

Post Links:

1.     VIP AREA:
http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375577

2.     SUNDAY TEAR DOWN ASSISTANT: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375423

3.     SET UP ASSISTANT: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375416

4.     ADMIN SUPPORT:
http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375563

5.     MAIN GATE HOST:
http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375443

6.     BBQ PREPARATION: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=375441


Date needed
: Sunday, August 21, 2016 (various times), Orientation on Tuesday, 9 August 2016 @ Women’s College Hospital (various times)


Location
: Downtown Toronto – 11 Sunlight Park Road near Queen and Broadview


This opportunity will drive you wild! Supercar Sunday is an annual event presented by BMW Toronto and Saturns Drives. It features over 100 exotic and expensive cars from brands such as Lamborghini and Ferrari. All proceeds will be donated to the Women’s College Hospital’s Orthopedic Surgery program. They are currently looking to take on a wide range volunteers to fill their open positions. Please see posting links above to find out more about what each position entails!

Resumes can be emailed to Todd.Perry@wchospital.ca with the subject title: Supercar Sunday *POSITION NAME*.

 

Back to school event volunteer 

4. BACK TO SCHOOL EVENT VOLUNTEER


Organization
: New Circles Community Services


Post Link
: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=223865


Date needed
: August 27, 2016 (9:45-1pm or 1-4pm)


Location
: North York – 161 Bartley Drive near Eglinton Avenue East and Bermondsey Road


Going back to school is a great excuse to pick out new wardrobe staples and replace old, outgrown pieces. However, not everyone has access to basic necessities many of us take for granted. New Circles Community Services is a non-profit organization whose core mission is to provide basic necessities to those living in poverty, primarily through adequate clothing and support. At their annual Teen Back to School Event, they are looking for 6 volunteers to help support their mission. As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Helping teens shop

-       Organizing and tidying clothing areas

-       Checking out the garments

-       Giving out new backpacks

Interested? Email poppy@newcircles.caNo resume or cover letter mentioned in posting. 


Phone Campaign Volunteer 

6. PHONE CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER


Organization
: Community Living Toronto


Post Link
: http://www.volunteertoronto.ca/networking/apply_now.aspx?view=2&id=380118


Date needed
: 8-12 & 15-19 August 2016 (Anytime from 10 AM- 4 PM)

Location: 20 Spadina Road, Bloor and Spadina


Had enough sun or nurturing your sunburn? Phone Campaign Volunteer might be the position for you. As part of Community Living Toronto’s Donor Thank-a-thon, you will work alongside the fundraising department to make phone calls to thank those who financially donated towards their organization. This opportunity is perfect for students who want to gain customer service experience in an office setting! Community Living Toronto supports those living with intellectual disability find accessible ways to live within their community.

They are looking to take on 2-3 volunteers. As a volunteer, your responsibilities will include:

-       Having good phone and customer service manner

-       Showcasing strong English communication skills

-       Being able to follow a script and training guidelines

-       Speaking clearly on the phone

Full day volunteers will be provided a lunch! Interested? Contact Yulia Prudova, Volunteer Coordinator, at yprudova@cltoronto.ca or at 416-968-0650 Ext 1209

 

If the opportunities above are not of your interest, be sure to check out all our postings at volunteertoronto.ca/opportunities. We recommend leaving all the spaces empty and filtering your search by clicking on ‘1. Suitable for Youth 14-17.’

Now get out there and spread some summer volunteer lovin’! 


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

Jessica Huynh

Jessica Huynh is a Creative Industries Student at Ryerson University, specializing in Storytelling in Media and Curatorial Practices. She is interested in visual culture and stimulating intellectual conversation through language and design. View her online portfolio or Connect with her on LinkedIn!


 

 

Tags:  40 High School Community service hours  40 hours community service  High school volunteer hours  Teen volunteering  Volunteer hours  Volunteer in Toronto 

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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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What's It Like To Volunteer For...Habitat For Humanity

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, May 10, 2016
Updated: May 9, 2016

 

Photo courtesy of Habitat For Humanity GTA

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Having a safe and decent place to live is a basic human right. Yet there are 1.6 million Canadian families in need of safe, clean and affordable shelter but are forced to decide between heat and rent – a choice no family should ever have to make.

 
 Keith Perrin (left) and volunteer

Habitat for Humanity Greater Toronto Area is a non-profit organization that envisions a world where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. Their work focuses on mobilizing volunteers and community partners to help hardworking, low income families break the cycle of poverty through affordable homeownership. Volunteers are the heart and soul of their work and each year 10,000 volunteers contribute over 100,000 hours to support the organization. One of their most well-known volunteer activities involves helping to build a home for a family.

Intrigued by what’s involved? Volunteer Toronto spoke with Keith Perrin, a volunteer with a background in sales and management, who rolled up his sleeves to help the cause and has helped many families along the way.

 

What is your current role at Habitat for Humanity GTA?

I’m the Volunteer Crew Leader

 

How long have you volunteered with this organization?

For more than three years.

 

How would you describe your current volunteer role?

Habitat for Humanity helps break the cycle of poverty for our partner families by providing a path to home ownership that would not otherwise be financially feasible.

We construct new build homes using volunteer labour, except where a licensed tradesperson is needed. Since volunteers perform primary framing, insulation, flooring and numerous other construction tasks, we are able to produce a quality home at a low construction cost.

Volunteers typically have no construction experience and must be taught the skills required to perform the task assigned for their day on the site, and be supervised throughout the day. This is a great learning experience, and opportunity to lend skills to a good cause in a hands-on fashion.

As a Volunteer Crew Leader, I teach construction skills, perform construction tasks and direct volunteers as they work on the home.

 

What is the time commitment involved?

For the past three years, I have averaged 500 hours per year. My frequency varies from as many as 3 to 4 days per week in the spring and fall, to a more staggered schedule in the summer and winter when vacation intervenes. As an organization, Habitat works with "what you can do, when you can do it" rather than a fixed commitment.

Many people only volunteer once, often as part of a corporate or community group. Some volunteers become regulars, and participate a few times per month. Regulars can graduate to the "Crew Program", in which they have expanded responsibility and assist less experienced volunteers. Some Crew Program members go on to become Crew Leaders if they show the desire, ability and commitment to more regular participation.

 

What does training consist of? How long does it last?

Training at Habitat occurs on the job, as it’s the only practical way to learn to build a house. I’ve been a Crew Leader for three years and a day never goes by that I don't still learn something from another volunteer.

Learning and teaching construction skills is a fundamental part of the Habitat model. Habitat people are extremely generous with their knowledge. Knowledge sharing is an integral part of the Habitat spirit.

 

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

I was initially shocked at how little I knew about actual construction. I always thought of myself as a handy guy, but it turned out I knew zero about building a real house. Mercifully Habitat people are incredibly generous with their knowledge.

I was also surprised to realize how much teaching and leadership is involved, and how weak my skills were. I spent my career in management, but I quickly realized that everyone I managed already knew their jobs!

At Habitat every day brings a new cohort of volunteers who generally have a great spirit, but no knowledge. I can say that my teaching and leadership skills are better today than they were before I retired, but don't tell my old employer that!

 

What have you learned from your volunteering?

Obviously, I’ve learned how to build houses. But the greater, and somewhat surprising thing I’ve learned is how to teach and lead people.

As Crew Leaders we spend some time discussing the construction process, but we spend far more time discussing the best ways to teach volunteers with no experience how to perform a required task effectively.

It’s critical that we teach inexperienced volunteers new tasks early in the morning, so that they can be productive and self-sufficient by the midday coffee break if we are to have a successful day.

 

How have the skills/knowledge you’ve gained through your volunteering transferred into other areas of your life?

There’s no doubt I am a better builder since joining Habitat, but I have also become the "go to" guy amongst everyone I know for an answer to a technical home question!

 

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

People think Habitat builds houses and gives them away, and this is not the case. Habitat’s motto is  "We give a hand up, not a hand out”.

Partner families (who will be living in the home) begin by passing a rigorous qualification process. They then have to give 500 hours of volunteer time to their home construction in lieu of a down payment. The house is sold to the partner family at its full market value, and Habitat provides a 100% first mortgage at zero interest with a repayment schedule geared to income.

The partner family must earn their way into an equity position in the property by paying down that mortgage. Were they to choose to sell the property after paying down only 10% of the mortgage, they would be entitled to only 10% of the equity in the home, including any appreciation in market value. This is a long term commitment for the partner family. When we say the partner family is in partnership with Habitat, we mean it!

 

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

Give it a try! It's physically demanding, and although it may not feel like it at first, it's a big benefit. I am 67 years old and am in the best shape I've been in the last 25 years! It also provides a great mental workout - construction is essentially one long problem-solving exercise, and it has improved my math skills significantly.

More than anything: come with an open mind willing to learn, teach and meet new and interesting people.

 

 

 

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:  Construction volunteers  Habitat for Humanity  poverty reduction  Toronto  volunteer in construction  Volunteer in 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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What's It Like To Volunteer For...Meals on Wheels?

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, February 29, 2016
Updated: February 26, 2016
 Michael and client talking by car

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: people who need extra support, elderly persons, vulnerable adults, caregivers, people who need help getting through a difficult time 

 photo of Michael Stipetic
 Michael Stipetic, volunteer with MOW
Being able to live in your own home with the ability to do everything for yourself isn’t a reality for everyone. Thankfully, forty years ago, a few volunteers had a vision that all community residents should have access to support services, which would allow them to maintain their independence, dignity and quality of life; and so began Meals on Wheels and More.

 

For over 40 years, this organization has been providing essential services to seniors and vulnerable adults in the North York area to assist them to live independently in their homes. Michael Stipetic is a driver and runner with the organization and has been since 2009. He volunteers once a week for two hours. Volunteer Toronto spoke with him about his experience.

     

 

What are some common assumptions people have about the volunteer work that you do?

MS: A common misconception is that everyone receiving Meals on Wheels (MOW) is elderly.

MOW not only provides services to elderly persons but also helps caregivers in need of extra support, people who aren’t feeling well enough to cook for themselves and those who need help to get through a difficult time in their lives. Low-cost and nutritious meals are delivered every day of the week, including boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables and convenient frozen options.

They can refer a transportation service to clients who need help getting to medical appointments, social events or who just want to get out to do some shopping! MOW has a social worker who provides information, coordination services and case management.  There is also a support group available for caregivers to join.

 

What type of training is provided?

MS: I was provided with on-the-job training. I had the opportunity to shadow another volunteer on the daily delivery route. The training lasted for two hours, and I was also provided with a detailed manual outlining the Meals on Wheels program.

 

What’s been challenging about your volunteer work?

MS: The driving routes can sometimes be a challenge depending on the number of clients and the weather. Being a driver with a good sense of direction and someone who is organized, adaptable and accepting of new challenges will contribute to your success in this type of volunteer work.


What have you learned from your volunteer work?

MS: Everybody requires aid in some capacity. Spending a small amount of time and putting forth a bit of effort can make a huge difference in someone's life. It can be as simple as picking up someone's newspaper or saying a kind greeting.

  

What is Michael’s advice to anyone looking to do this type of volunteer work? Just do it! He says that you will be surprised, as the one who gets the most help is YOU! To find out more about the different types of volunteer opportunities available at Meals on Wheels and More, including testimonials from other volunteers at this organization, click here!


Meals on Wheels volunteer opportunities available:

Meals on Wheels and More 

East York Meals on Wheels 

Canadian Red Cross Society


 

Watch this digital story to find out more about volunteering at Meals on Wheels and More

 

To discover other volunteer opportunities available to you, use Volunteer Toronto’s helpful search feature or contact one of our referral counsellors.

 

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:  How to give back  Meals on Wheels  Serving others  Volunteer in Toronto  Volunteer Toronto  Volunteering  Ways to volunteer  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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