Volunteering is an integral part of Canadian culture. Children are encouraged to do it, and high school students must complete mandatory volunteer hours. Adults volunteer their time and skills at charities, non-profit organizations, political parties, religious faith organizations, youth groups, and many other places. According to Statistics Canada, in 2013, 44 percent of the population, aged 15 years and older, participated in some form of volunteer work.
Volunteering involves giving personal time freely for the benefit of another person, group, or cause. According to Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC), volunteering is the time you give to strengthen your community and improve others’ quality of life as well as your own.
Giving back to the community is usually well-regarded and valued in Canadian society. In this article, we will focus on the importance of volunteering, highlight the benefits it offers, and provide resources to find potential volunteering opportunities.
Importance of volunteering: 3 ways you can benefit as a newcomer
1. Build your network
Volunteering can be a key tool in building your Canadian network. During your initial days or months as a newcomer in Canada, you may not know many people. Cultural differences may limit you from proactively reaching out to locals to build connections. Volunteering offers a forum to meet other like-minded individuals – newcomers and locals alike – and build your social and professional networks.
Canada has a hidden job market. The hidden job market refers to positions that are filled without the employer advertising for it publicly. It is said that as much as 65-85% of the jobs are not posted online. This is why building your network is crucial, and volunteering is a great way to get started.
2. Gain Canadian experience
Newcomers in the job search phase can try looking for volunteering opportunities in their field of work. You can also identify roles that involve the usage of skills that are relevant to your profession. Volunteering can help you bridge gaps in your work history while you look for a job and is a good way to gain the much-coveted, Canadian experience. Moreover, you can always ask the company you volunteered with to provide reference letters, which can be useful in your job applications.
Volunteering also offers the opportunity to learn new skills and brush up on your English or French language skills. In a survey conducted by Statistics Canada, many stated that their volunteer activities had given them a chance to develop new skills. For example, as per the survey results,
- about two-thirds (64 percent) said their interpersonal skills had improved,
- 44 percent said the volunteer experience had improved their communication skills,
- 39 percent reported to have improved organizing skills,
- 33 percent improved with fundraising skills,
- 27 percent with technical or office work, and
- one-third (34 percent) reported that working as a volunteer had increased their knowledge of such subjects as health, women’s or political issues, criminal justice or the environment.
3. Keep yourself busy so you don’t get depressed
Volunteering can help you develop empathy and compassion and gather positive life experiences. As a newcomer in a foreign land, away from your friends and family in your home country, it’s very easy to feel isolated, homesick and depressed. Keeping yourself occupied by being involved with the community is a good way to care for your mental well-being.
Volunteering is also a brilliant way to discover new interests and hobbies, visit different parts of the city and travel. It can help you reduce stress and provide a sense of purpose.
How can you volunteer in Canada?
ESDC has suggested some ways in which you can volunteer:
- Facilitate a strategic planning session
- Chair a fundraising campaign
- Help start a tenants rights association
- Review a Human Resources Manual
- Organize a volunteer schedule for an event
- Enter data at a resource centre
- Provide general office help
- Design a website for an elder-care co-op
- Write a blog on affordable housing
- Customize a donor database for a food bank
- Teach computer skills in a community centre
- Build a bookshelf for a reading room
- Sew costumes for a play
- Teach card-making in a rehabilitation centre
- Build a stage for marathon ceremonies
- Walk a dog for a local animal shelter
- Research pesticide bylaws in different cities
- Plant vegetables in a community garden
- Tutor children
- Comfort a victim of violence
- Be a mentor to a teen
- Answer the phones for a helpline
- Prepare lunch in a soup kitchen
- Coach a team
- Drive people to medical appointments
- Play piano for a sing-a-long at a retirement residence
- MC at a volunteer service awards night
- Do a stand-up comedy act at a fundraiser
- Join a choir that participates at community events
How to find volunteer opportunities in Canada
Finding a volunteering opportunity that aligns well with your situation and experience might take a bit of research.
Here are a couple of action items to get you started:
- Research: Look up companies and organizations that are offering volunteering positions in your field or find ones that represent causes you care about. And include positions that involve the skills you would use in your desired job — these may be skills that you’re already proficient in or are hoping to learn and improve. Another way to find volunteering opportunities is to keep an eye out for volunteer requests in your neighbourhood.
- Connect: Reach out to these organizations by sending an email, contacting them through their website or through their LinkedIn pages to learn more about their needs. Evaluate the areas where you might be able to offer your skills.
List of a few websites to find volunteer opportunities in Canada:
In addition, most provincial government sites and major city websites will also list out volunteering opportunities. For instance, here are the websites for Ontario, British Columbia, Toronto, and Vancouver.
Giving back to the community is usually well-regarded and valued in Canadian society. As a newcomer, volunteering is a great way to integrate yourself into the community, get to know the local culture, and even improve your chances of finding paid employment opportunities. Volunteering experience also adds immense value to your resume and could be a stepping stone in helping you reach your goals.
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