Volunteer Central is challenging all Central Albertans to log in their volunteer hours in honour of the nation’s 150th birthday.
A launch of the Canada 150 for 150 Volunteer Challenge took place this week in Red Deer.
Volunteer Ottawa is leading a nation-wide campaign in partnership with Volunteer Canada and national volunteer centres, including Volunteer Central located in Red Deer, encouraging Canadians to volunteer 150 hours of their time this year to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday.
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson issued a challenge to other city mayors. “I challenge the mayors of other cities across the country to encourage their citizens to take part in this philanthropic campaign,” he said. “This will serve as an innovative and inclusive forum for Canadians from coast to coast to engage in volunteerism in their communities.”
Local volunteers can use the www.volunteercentral.ca web site to track their volunteer hours and share their personal stories.
Using an online platform and mobile app, participants can track their hours and tell their volunteer stories. With a special focus on new Canadians, Aboriginals, seniors, and youth, the challenge will culminate in a ceremony in Ottawa to recognize those individuals who contributed the most hours in each province and territory, and the city that contributed the greatest number of volunteer hours.
“Most Canadians already volunteer over 100 hours a year, but this is to encourage everyone,” said Pam Snowdon, executive director of Volunteer Central. “Stats Canada says 82 per cent of Canadians don’t recognize that they’re volunteering when they are volunteering – they will go shovel snow for the person next door – and we do it out of habit and we don’t even recognize it as a form of volunteering.
“This challenge is a way to recognize that you are making a big contribution – thanks for being kind and humble – and this year we will recognize it and celebrate it.
“Ottawa will be compiling all this information and the intention is to give awards recognizing outstanding volunteers – but that can be anybody, it doesn’t have to be a momentous thing,” said Snowdon.
She added Red Deer’s extraordinary volunteers are one of the reasons that the City was awarded the 2019 Canada Winter Games bid.
“Volunteerism was one of the attributes of the City that helped the selection committee choose Red Deer for the 2019 Canada Winter Games,” said Snowdon, pointing to other events such as the torch relay, the recent Memorial Cup, and other events where volunteer efforts were evident.
“It is certainly a highlight of this community and this community is known in other centres – the larger centres – for our reputation as volunteers here.”
Volunteer Central Chairperson Jennifer Blair said there is no doubt that Red Deer citizens will rise to the challenge posed by the Ottawa mayor. “Our community is known for its outstanding volunteer spirit,” she said. “The Canada 150 for 150 Volunteer Challenge will engage citizens in volunteerism to improve the quality of living for all Canadians. We believe the efforts of Volunteer Central and those of our regional, provincial, and national counterparts will inspire strong, connected, and resilient communities.”
She added volunteerism is a catalyst for social inclusion, community engagement, and for fostering a sense of belonging. “Our collective future depends on all of us working together and inspiring others to do the same so that our community will continue to prosper. Through campaigns like Canada 150 for 150 Volunteer Challenge, we support this vision.”
Meanwhile, Snowdon said volunteering can enrich someone’s life immensely.
“It’s good for your mental health – to show compassion and empathy – there is medical research that show that it releases endorphins.
“The younger we can start volunteering, the easier it is for people to grow up with a sense of empathy and compassion and philanthropy and caring. Volunteering gets you out of the house, so you can explore new locations and organizations and then you meet new people. Our lives become enriched by that. You can also learn new skills and you can never be too old to learn new skills. And then for someone who is thinking of a new career, learning those new skills and volunteering gives you a chance to do that and network with people in that profession.”
She added volunteerism is vital to any community.
“When you look at the wildfires (in Fort McMurray last year) or the flooding that we had years ago – when disaster strikes, ordinary people rise to the challenge. People react with compassion and that is community-building because people put themselves in other people’s shoes.”
For more information, visit www.volunteercentral.ca.