Youth volunteerism in Alberta is critical to ongoing and
future volunteer efforts. Youth One is a program under the
auspices of The Support Network that is dedicated to
introducing and advancing youth volunteerism.
by Jennifer Wong
In the year 2000, 29% of young people in Canada aged 15-24
were volunteering in some capacity (National Survey of Giving,
Volunteering and participating, 2000). Five years later, where
are we at? We will have to wait until the fall of 2005 to find
out, when the results from the latest study from 2004 will be
released, but the thing is – it just doesn’t matter.
There is no doubt that the information is useful for tracking
trends and for being able to respond appropriately to them. But
until it’s known that every Canadian youth is volunteering, all
we need to know is that we have much to improve and strive for.
So why aren’t more youth volunteering? When we’ve asked them
about the barriers they perceive, we are consistently told a
handful of things: there’s no pay, they don’t have time, it’s
boring, and they don’t know where to start. Fair enough, you
might think. But in perspective, in a world where there are
grave injustices for every moment of the day and inequality is
the rule, the need to start thinking about the bigger picture
and what’s meaningful is growing.
If we were to ask those youth who do volunteer why it is that
they do, we would hear a myriad of answers. That it’s fun, that
they need to do it for school credit, that they want to learn
employable skills, that they love helping people, that they’re
trying to beef up their resumes — all of these things are valid
reasons. So why don’t the 71% of young people who don’t
volunteer find these things motivating?
Until more detailed research is conducted on what prevents a
youth from volunteering, it’s very hard to answer this question.
However, the evidence gathered from my experience with youth
seems to point in the direction of misconception — around what
volunteering is, the breadth and possibility of voluntary work,
the difference it actually makes, and what kinds of people
Volunteering, according to dictionary.com, is described as
"doing charitable or helpful work without pay." But it’s not
simply working in a soup kitchen or licking stamps or helping
out at a fundraiser run (though all of those things are
fantastic ways to be helpful). It’s coaching a kids’ team, or
picking up garbage in your neighbourhood, or teaching someone
how to do something they couldn’t before. The feeling that
you’ve just made someone’s life better is remarkably rewarding.
Volunteering isn’t just what you can do for other people; it’s
also what you can do for yourself.
Youth One is currently developing an initiative called
YouthVOLUNTEER!, which will be Edmonton’s first online volunteer
centre for youth
www.youthone.com/volunteer. Youth and young
adults, loosely defined as 13 to 24, will be able to access a
diverse database of volunteer opportunities to connect with
agencies in need. By linking the energy of young people to
positions that match their skills and passions, YouthVOLUNTEER!
Committed to Youth
RUNNING TIME: 0:49 minutes
Youth volunteers are critical to any community, for they serve as a measure of the
ongoing civic spirit passed on from one generation to the next.
The Ismaili Muslim community in Edmonton relies on volunteer teachers -
many of them youth volunteers - to help run two education programs for
the children of new Ismaili Muslim immigrants, the Winter Mini-School and
the Learning Centres. In this video excerpt from Aleem Karmali's
"learning...by heart" documentary, youth volunteers and students comment on the positive
contributions youth volunteers are making in these community programs.