Rewarding experiences, growth part of volunteering

Experiences gained, opportunities explored and the fulfillment of making a noticeable contribution to our community

Experiences gained, opportunities explored and the fulfillment of making a noticeable contribution to our community are all reasons volunteering in Sylvan Lake and across Alberta is thriving.

When we consider the many events we attend every week, the people we talk to and the enthusiasm behind their smiles and comments, we know there’s a definite joy in being able to give something back to the community to help our families, friends and neighbours in so many different ways.

International Volunteer Day next Wednesday provides a great opportunity for us to think back over the past year and remember the many awesome volunteers who make Sylvan Lake and area such a vibrant and active community.

Not a week goes by where we don’t hear stories, or participate in events connected with volunteers.

Alberta is above the provincial average for volunteering, according to the 2010 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating.

While the highest rate of volunteerism was recorded by our neighbours to the east, in Saskatchewan, where 58 per cent of adults aged 15 and over did volunteer work in 2010, the rate for Alberta was 55 per cent — not far behind. The Canadian average is 47 per cent or 13.3 million people. And they devoted almost 2.07 billion hours to their volunteer activities — a volume of work that is equivalent to just under 1.1 million full-time jobs.

An article in the Statistics Canada publication, Canadian Social Trends, earlier this year, detailed results from the survey and provides insights that are probably common knowledge for people living in smaller more close-knit communities.

“Rates of volunteering are consistently higher in rural and less urban regions.”

Volunteers provided leadership on boards and committees; canvased for funds; provided advice, counselling or mentoring; visited seniors; prepared and delivered food; served as volunteer drivers; advocated for social causes; coached children and youth. “In short, they shaped their communities and enabled non-profit organizations to deliver programs and services to millions of their fellow Canadians,” according to the article.

We’ve expounded before about the work volunteers do in our community and thanked everyone for their efforts. It’s clear that without such a strong bound between friends and acquaintances getting involved in things that interest them most, we’d been a much different place.

We acknowledge it’s disheartening for local organizations that struggle to find new volunteers and create value for the volunteer hours that are being contributed. That’s all the more reason we need to encourage our volunteers and provide them with opportunities and challenges to grow.

The most successful groups, obviously, will be those who engage volunteers and are able to provide the experiences that people are seeking when they opt to get involved.

In our ever-evolving fast-paced world, it’s becoming more important to recognize efforts than to expect volunteers will automatically remain committed.

In that vein then, we want to recognize every single volunteer in our community, from the youngest children to the aging seniors, from the unemployed to the employed, from those fiercely committed to one group or organization to those who like the diversity of various involvements.

Volunteerism not only provides an opportunity to help and to learn, but it provides a strong social network that’s essential to our wellbeing.

Volunteering also provides experiences that contribute to our overall growth as people and as a community.

Let’s encourage more people to spend a few minutes, a few hours or longer expanding their interests and finding the joys in volunteering. And let’s make it worthwhile to them to participate in a meaningful way.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental indications of the benefit of volunteering is a Maasai tribal saying: “I am what I am because of other people and they are what they are because of me being around.”

Thanks to everyone involved in our community.