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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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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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What's It Like To Volunteer As... A Peer Mentor?

Posted By Volunteer Toronto, March 29, 2016
Updated: December 19, 2016
 Mentor and mentees through the Peer Project
Photo courtesy of The Peer Project

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Population Served: Newcomer and at-risk kids, ages 6-15

 Youth and Mentor at Blue Jays Game
 Peer mentor and youth

Building a positive, nurturing mentoring relationship with a child in need can alter the course of their life. Did you know you have the potential to help a child to do better in school? Prevent bullying? Reduce the crime rate? It’s true!

The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth matches youth mentors (aged 16 to 29) with newcomer and at-risk kids (aged 6-15), so they can build a friendship that encourages a healthy lifestyle. While a noble and principled cause, some may find the responsibility for altering the course of a young life an intimidating task. Like trying to make it from the kitchen sink to the freezer with a recently filled ice-cube tray in hand… without spilling a single drop. (bead of sweat rolls down forehead)

Fear not! Volunteer Toronto spoke with Michael Kwong, a volunteer with the Peer Project, to find out more about peer mentoring. Thankfully, perfection is not a necessity. He states that the ability to be there for your mentee and active listening are traits of a good mentor. 

If you possess these attributes and are thinking about peer mentoring, keep reading for more information.  

 

How would you describe the role of a Peer Mentor?

MK: A Peer Mentor is an individual who is, first and foremost, committed to building a positive relationship with their mentee. This can include partaking in different activities with the mentee to learn more about each other and staying in touch with the mentee's parents.

 

What common misconceptions do people have about mentoring?

MK: The notion that the mentor has the answers to everything. Mentors are human. However, a good mentor is there for the mentee when they need them, even if they don’t have the all the answers.

 

What is the time commitment involved?

MK: With the Peer Project it's three hours a week.


What type of training is provided for your role?

MK: A day of training was provided to prospective volunteers to equip them with the knowledge to become successful mentors.

* In addition to their initial training, which includes the topic of mental health so mentors can understand and help their mentees, peer mentors receive ongoing training and also have access to 24-hour support.

 

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

MK: The most important characteristic and skill you can have when it comes to being a successful mentor is the passion for making a difference in the community and good leadership skills. Being a good leader involves leading by example, taking responsibility for one’s actions and a commitment to learning and improvement.

 

What do you like most about volunteering for the Peer Project?

MK: The flexibility. Not being confined to a set day and time enables me to schedule meetings with my mentee that work perfectly for the both of us.

 

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer work?

MK: One of the challenges associated with mentoring is the process of building a relationship with your mentee and developing trust. However, with some time and patience, the mentor-mentee relationship that develops is priceless.

  

If mentoring with The Peer Project - Youth Assisting Youth sounds like something you’d be interested in, go to their Become A Mentor page to get more information. There are over 400 kids who are waiting to be matched. They need YOUR help.

 

Mentoring volunteer opportunities available:

 

Youth Mentor - The Peer Project

Volunteer Mentor - Junior Achievement of Central Toronto

Career Mentors for Youth - Yonge Street Mission

Male Mentors - StepStones for Youth

 

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


 

Check out this digital story by Olivia Plummer
to learn the life lessons she learned from her mentor.

 

 

 

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:  What's It Like To Volunteer 

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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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What's It Like To Volunteer For...A Women's Shelter?

Posted By Samantha Glave, Volunteer Guest Blogger, February 2, 2016
Updated: February 1, 2016
 Photo courtesy of The Redwood
 Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

 

Population Served: Women, Children

According to the City of Toronto, the emergency shelter system has grown rapidly and the face of homelessness has changed since the 1980s. As a result, the shelter system has become more specialized and flexible to meet new needs within the homeless population.

Volunteering in the shelter system allows you the opportunity to work with different populations, depending on the vision and mission of the specific organization. The Redwood is a women and children’s shelter in Toronto that aims to create a world where women and children live free from abuse and all other forms of violence and oppression, by offering programs and services that assist women and children to live and flourish without abuse, homelessness and poverty.

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to work at a women’s shelter? Volunteer Toronto spoke with Sarah Robinson, a Children’s Programming Volunteer at the Redwood to give you some insight into what it’s like.

 

 

Note: Answers have been edited for clarity and brevity


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

SR: That it's restrictive, depressing or really hard. The staff are so considerate of my schedule; I never worry about having to change time or cancel. The work doesn't feel like work― I get to goof around with some of the coolest kids I've ever met, and I don't have the responsibility to get them to sleep at bedtime! It is so far from sad. Even on hard or challenging days, everyone is so supportive and uplifting. I always leave with a happy heart and feeling really glad that I went.



VT: What is the time commitment involved?

SR: The Redwood is really flexible and understanding with commitment changes, but I am usually in for 1 to 1 1/2 hours a week.




VT: What type of training is provided?  

SR: The Redwood provided training on child behaviour and the effects of violence on children and always has optional training sessions available, like Crisis Prevention Intervention, which I’ve found to be very helpful.




VT: What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteer work?

SR: I’ve been surprised at how quickly you bond with the staff, women and children. This has been the loveliest surprise. The Redwood has become a safe space for me on tough days. In the same way, developing a close bond makes it challenging when the women and children leave, but we are also happy for them.



VT: What advice do you have to give to anyone looking to do this type of volunteer work?

SR: Just try it! You'll be surprised by how easily it fits into and enriches your life.



VT: What skills and characteristics do you feel contribute most to success in your volunteer work?

SR: Patience, compassion and an open-mind (plus a dose of good humour) will help immensely when volunteering.    

  


Watch this digital story created by Redwood volunteer Yiran Shao about the myths surrounding shelters

 

Think this volunteer opportunity is restricted to women? Think again! When men volunteer at the Redwood they act as positive role models for the children at the shelter. If you have any more questions about volunteering at the Redwood, including how to start volunteering, visit their webpage.

To look for other volunteer opportunities, 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:  Helping a women's shelter  The Redwood  Toronto  Volunteer in a women's shelter  What's It Like To Volunteer  Women's Shelter 

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