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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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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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What's It Like To Volunteer For...A Cat Rescue

Posted By Melissa Haughton, Volunteer Guest Blogger, April 18, 2016
Updated: April 13, 2016

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Cats have taken the Internet by storm over the last few years. Whether they’re grumpy, cuddly or lazy, these animals continue to win people over both on and offline.  Unfortunately, many cats in the city are born in the wild, which means they don’t have access to regular food or care. Annex Cat Rescue works to help all these furry felines in need.

 

Sara Slater
Volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue

Founded in 1997, the Annex Cat Rescue started in its namesake—the Annex—but soon expanded to help cats across the Greater Toronto Area. This not for profit organization is run by volunteers committed to reducing the feral population and helping cats find homes. Sara Slater has been a volunteer with Annex Cat Rescue for the past 10 years.

 

 

 

 

How would you describe your volunteer role?

Annex Cat Rescue is a 100% volunteer-run organization. I started volunteering by fostering cats after one of mine died. After fostering, I was interested in getting more involved.

I have volunteered in a variety of roles at Annex Cat Rescue, including many administrative positions. Administrative roles are great because you can help cats indirectly, just by working on the computer or supporting other volunteers.

The feeding and caring for the feral cats brings me the most joy of all though, which is some of what I do in my current role as the Feral Colony Coordinator & Community Manager.  I love interacting with the cats, who wait for us every day for food, and monitoring them to see if they need any medical or extra care. For this interview I'll concentrate on the position of feeding the feral cats.

What do you like most about volunteering for this non-profit?

I love volunteering for the Annex Cat Rescue because they really support you through every situation. Everyone is so compassionate and caring.

What common misconceptions do people have about the volunteer work that you do?

People usually think we're a small organization that looks after a few homeless cats. It’s actually estimated there are over 100,000 homeless cats in the city, so that requires a lot people.  There are many homeless cat colonies that Annex Cat Rescue and other rescuers work with, so everyone comes together to help out.

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

As a member of the feral feeding team, I’ve learned how to work independently and help out as part of a team. I've also developed valuable communications and organization skills keeping track of cats, volunteers and keeping everyone up to date.

Is training provided for your role? What did it consist of and how long did it last?

Yes, training is definitely provided for feral feeding. Usually a new volunteer will speak with the volunteer coordinator, and then shadow an experienced feeder for one or two sessions. They will show the new volunteer where and how much to feed the cats, what to look out for, and answer any questions.

What’s been surprising or challenging about your volunteering?

It’s surprising how much valuable health information I’ve learned about cats through volunteering over the years. The information has definitely helped me better care for my own cats.

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

For feral feeding you need to have a big, empathetic heart. You also need to communicate effectively with the other feeders to discuss any situations that may arise, such as when a cat needs medical care.

 

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

If you're interested in joining the Feral Feeding team, it’s best to see what it’s like first-hand. Email Annex Cat Rescue and say you’d like to shadow an experienced feral feeder!

 

 

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:  cat care  Cat recuse  feral cats  volunteer with cats  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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Ask Kelly - What Is The Best Way For Me To Find A Volunteer Position?

Posted By Kelly Devries, Outreach Coordinator, March 7, 2016
Updated: March 4, 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

Hello Kelly,

am retiring soon and interested in getting involved in a volunteer position. I last volunteered about twenty years ago, and it seems that the field has changed since I was last involved. Why is this? What is the best way for me to find a volunteer position?

 

Sincerely,

Mary

 


 

Hello, Mary

 

Thank you so much for your interest in volunteering! I am glad to hear that volunteering is part of your retirement plan!

Yes, you are right that the voluntary sector has changed significantly in the past twenty years. The primary reason for this is a greater concern for risk management and safety for the clients being served. This has translated into a more professionalized screening process for volunteers. For example, the application and screening process may now include:

 

  Submitting an application, possibly including a cover letter and resume 

  

Interview(s) by phone or in-person

 

 

Reference checks, Background checks or Vulnerable Sector Police Checks, particularly if you will be working with vulnerable populations

 

 

The best way for you to find a volunteer position is to follow the 3 R’s – Reflect, Research and Reach Out! 


  Before looking for a volunteer position, spend time thinking about what you would most be interested in. Here are some questions to reflect on:

a. What are you looking for from a volunteer position?

b. What is your availability?

c. Are you interested in a particular cause or organization?

d. What kind of skills would you like to use or gain?

e. How long would you like to commit to a position? A few months? A year?

   
Once you have a clear idea of what you are interested in start researching possible options. The best way to do this is visit our Volunteer Opportunities Page and search by Category. Be prepared to spend some time looking through the 100’s of postings on the website.
   
   

When you find a position title that appeals to you, apply to the position by following the instructions under the  “How to Apply/Contact” section of the posting. I would encourage you to apply to several different organizations at the same time. You never know which ones might work out or how many other people are applying.

 

You could also come to our Seniors Volunteer Fair at the North York Memorial Community Hall on Wednesday, March 23 from 1PM-4PM to talk face-to-face with 25+ non-profits looking for senior volunteers.

If you need any additional help don’t hesitate to contact one of our Referral Counsellors who can spend some time answering your questions, and helping you navigate the website to find suitable positions. You can book an appointment with them here or give them a call at 416-961-6888 ext 229.

 

 

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:  Frequently Asked Questions  how to start volunteering  Questions about volunteering  volunteering in Toronto  volunteers 

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