December 5 is a special day for those who give time and talent
With limitless opportunities to give back to a wider community—doing good is good!—virtually anyone can make an impact by volunteering.
Did you know that each December 5, individuals and organizations around the world who give their time and talents to help others are celebrated on International Volunteer Day? Look around you. It’s almost certain you cross paths with a volunteer every day. Most people, at some point in their lives, have been a volunteer. Even if you don’t give your time to a formal organization, if you gave your time to participate in community activities or provide personal care for family, friends, neighbours, or even strangers, you can pat yourself on the back this December 5. Why do people volunteer? It’s well documented that volunteering helps not only those who are being helped, but it also enhances the health and well-being of the volunteer. As one often-cited research paper put it: “It’s good to be good.” The sky’s the limit on volunteer opportunities In case you think it’s just about coaching your daughter’s hockey team or fundraising for your son’s band concert, think again. There’s a whole world of volunteer opportunities—the only limitation is your imagination. What are some of the ways you can volunteer? Become a volunteer scientist Almost anyone can become a citizen scientist. If you enjoy observing nature, you can participate in any number of ways to collect important data that research scientists use to study everything from climate change to invasive species. In fact, if you’ve ever participated in a shoreline cleanup event as some of the alive team did recently, you can call yourself a citizen scientist too. Not only did we pick up debris, but we also catalogued and collated the data to submit to the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup organizers. Join the Blue Dot Movement The David Suzuki Foundation’s Blue Dot Movement is a social movement that aims to garner grassroots-level support to entrench the right to a healthy environment in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Volunteers across Canada (at last count 88,211 of them!) have been gathering support from their local governments (97 municipal governments so far) to pass declarations recognizing the right to fresh air, clean water, and healthy food. Lend your voice to the Blue Dot Movement. Walk, run, or bike for charity Take something you love—and do it for a worthy cause. Do good, in other words, and feel twice as good for doing it. Charity challenge events often bring people together who have a common purpose. For example, many foundations sponsor events to support research into prevention and support for a particular illness or condition—cancer (think Terry Fox Run), Alzheimer’s disease (think Walk for Memories), heart disease (think Big Bike). How do you find out more about volunteering? The first place to start is by thinking about an organization you care about and checking out volunteer opportunities there. If you love animals, for example, check with your local SPCA. There are even plenty of opportunities for those of us with a desire to help but little time or opportunity—try virtual volunteering, where you can create a real impact with small actions from your own home or office. Here are some of the many resources for people who are looking to give some of their valuable time to help out a bigger cause.