Volunteers -The Unsung Heroes Among Us

April 15-21st was National Volunteers week in Canada. It was a great time to appreciate all of those who donate their time on a regular basis to help out organizations that need them. Volunteers are a powerful force in our society. They support and sustain many important charities, non-profits, education and health services, and communities (to name a few).

Photo courtesy of Tavis Ford

Canada and the United States are two of only a few countries in the world where volunteerism is clearly defined and talked about. This is not to say that other countries don’t have volunteers, but they don’t get defined as such. I recently attended a volunteer orientation at Immigration Services Canada and the presenter mentioned that in Russia (where he is from originally), people don’t “volunteer”- rather they “help out”. From the same presentation, I was proud to learn that Calgary is the volunteering capital of Canada, with over 70% of people volunteering an average of 15 hours per week. That’s a crazy high number!! I was also very proud to learn that internationally, women account for over 60% of volunteers. It’s not surprising. Perhaps the question of whether women are expected or trained more often than men to work without the expectation of remuneration demands scrutiny, as well. However, the willingness of women to volunteer their time is certainly laudable.

It is important to appreciate the often unsung heroes that give so much of themselves for so little in return. In addition, there are many people out there who volunteer without even recognizing their actions as such. Every instance in which somebody gives his or her time and service in assistance of another, is an embodiment of the spirit and role of volunteerism, even though such actions may not be given that name.

Volunteers come from all walks of life and they help all kinds of people. I didn’t want to wait until International Volunteers Day (December 5th) to publicly acknowledge, encourage, and pay my respects for all the recognized and unrecognized volunteers out there. During the orientation I attended, we were shown two video clips that I wanted to share with L&P readers:

The measure of a strong society is how well it supports and empowers even its most vulnerable and underprivileged members, and volunteers are a big part of creating that support and empowerment. They are the backbone of the civility, democracy, and drive towards positive change that we pride ourselves in as a nation, both in Canada and the United States.