the many faces of volunteerism
This week’s post celebrates the spirit of volunteerism. Volunteers are saluted annually during National Volunteer Week (this year April 18-24, 2021) and Volunteer Recognition and Appreciation Day which is celebrated annually on April 20th. International Volunteers Day is celebrated this year on December 5, 2020. It’s nice to see so many days set aside to honour the great work volunteers are doing in their communities, and around the world–particularly in times of need or crisis as we are currently experiencing in the world due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This an update of a popular post I wrote several years ago on the importance of volunteering and helping causes or groups you believe in. Pictured above is the past District Director for District 64 Toastmasters, Thecla Athayde, who like many other Toastmasters, has spent many hours per week volunteering on behalf of Toastmasters International.
Volunteerism has always played a huge role in my life. In recent years, I spent an enormous amount of time volunteering on behalf of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (PWAC), which has now dissolved and merged with the Canadian Media Guild’s Freelance Branch to form the Canadian Freelance Guild (CFG.) In my role as national President of PWAC I had the opportunity to be involved in many exciting and important activities that affect freelance writers across Canada. That has involved more than one trip to Ottawa to make presentations to Parliamentary Committees on the labour movement and the importance of copyright to writers and the creative community.
Volunteerism has many faces, and can be of benefit to us–personally and professionally–with implications that can be immediate, longlasting or both. Volunteering for Toastmasters is something that has also taken an important role in my life. Toastmasters helps me personally and professionally, and is something that has played an integral part of my life since joining Toastmasters International in 2001.
In this post, I thought it would be fun for us to reflect back on some of the most meaningful, unusual or memorable moments in volunteerism that have blessed our lives.
I have two most memorable occasions that are entirely different. One good to great! And the other … not so good. To start with the positive, one of the most memorable volunteer roles I’ve had was as part of the media team for the 1999 Pan Am Games that were held in Manitoba. As I lived right next door to Birds Hill Provincial Park, I volunteered to work at the equestrian events being held in the park.
There were journalists from all over the Americas, and it was our job to be sure they had everything they needed, help them arrange interviews with anyone they wanted to meet, etc. I was teamed with Heidi Bock of Winnipeg, someone I became quite good friends with during the process.
Heidi (left) & I doing our thing at the 1999 Pan American Games held in Manitoba in 1999.
volunteer experiences come in all shapes and colours
The not-so-good volunteer experience that will always be lodged in my memory (and was fodder for my book on volunteerism, “Before You Say Yes …”) occurred when I was on a small board for an arts group. We were in the midst of a meeting, and our executive director (who had a very volatile personality) became enraged at something one of the directors had said, rose to her feet, threw her chair against the wall and stormed out of the meeting room, never to be seen again! Needless to say, that moment left us all quite dumbfounded, and left the organization without staff and in quite the bind. What a learning experience that was!
Some of the most meaningful volunteer work I’ve done are the years I spent serving as shop steward, contract negotiator, and president of our component within a provincial union. Unions have amazing training programs. They taught me all about leadership, how to be a good listener and how to be confident in my position. That work helped form the core of the person I am today. And I hope I helped a lot of my co-workers along the way. It’s interesting that more than 30 years later, my life came full circle and I was once again in a leadership position within the labour movement via the CFG. (See photo at top of post.)
That leaves the unusual category to ponder. I didn’t have to go as far back in my memory banks to find that one! In 2009 I was Mrs. Santa at the Matlock Recreation Club–quite the stretch for someone who has never had any children, and who has probably held no more than a dozen babies in her arms throughout my entire lifetime! (See photo below.)
volunteering helps us grow
But that’s what volunteerism enables and encourages us to do. To step outside our comfort zones and to do things that will help others, make the world a better place and bring smiles to the faces of others.
Now it’s your turn! Please share some of the most memorable, meaningful, or unusual moments you have experienced in your roles as a volunteer.
I look forward to hearing your stories. Some of my friends have done volunteering abroad and really enjoyed it. Have you had an opportunity like this? Please share your thoughts and experiences. I’d love to hear them.
We can all learn from and be inspired by the experiences of others. Remember to thank your favourite volunteer on Volunteer Appreciation Day, all week during National Volunteer Week, on International Volunteer Day held December 5th, and always. Let’s celebrate all the incredible volunteers in our lives. Send them a virtual hug and thank them for all they do. I guarantee you they will thank you for it, as it truly is nice to be appreciated. 😊