Think you’re busy? Meet John Stubbs.
The 27-year-old is a full-time senior manager at Scotiabank and a part-time MBA student at Ryerson University. Over the past five years, he has also been a physiotherapist assistant at the Toronto Rehabilitation Centre, a sports group facilitator at the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction and a camp counsellor at Gilda’s Club.
The last three were all volunteer positions, born out of a personal interest. “I didn’t do my undergraduate degree in health sciences, but I’ve always been keen to find out how those people are helped and how those facilities are run,” Stubbs says.
“As a volunteer, you’re able to experience that without having to go to school for four years to get your degree in it and have a full-time job with it.”
Stubbs is just one of the growing number of young adults getting engaged as volunteers. According to the 2004 Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating, Canadians aged 15 to 24 have a higher rate of volunteering than any other age group, with 55 per cent volunteering. Among those aged 25 to 34, 42 per cent volunteered.
Those are heartening numbers for Deborah Gardner, who connects volunteers to opportunities as executive director of Volunteer Toronto.
For young adults living away from home for the first time, volunteering can provide a sense of community, she says. That could mean choosing opportunities that centre on your neighbourhood, gender or ethnic background.
She also recommends volunteering as a way to develop new skills and networks. “You’re not working, so your employment’s not in jeopardy if you make a mistake,” she says. “You can go outside of your comfort zone as a volunteer and try things.”
The digital age has allowed Volunteer Toronto to venture beyond the traditional avenues of promoting volunteerism at community fairs and schools. Now, Facebook and Twitter are also used to mobilize computer-savvy volunteers, while the agency’s website lists about 12,000 opportunities at any given time.
Stubbs is doing his part to appeal to the younger generation, transitioning his volunteer experience to the planning and development side of the sector. Besides sitting on Volunteer Toronto’s board of directors, he is currently involved with United Way’s GenNext initiative, which targets the young adult demographic in promoting volunteer opportunities.
He views it as yet another step in his personal development. “Volunteers always get something back from it,” he says. “There’s always an equal exchange, but the exchange might not be monetary. The exchange is the experience gained.”
Sector adopts code of volunteer involvement
The volunteer sector has its own version of the Hippocratic Oath when it comes to standards of behaviour. The Canadian Code of Volunteer Involvement outlines three main elements:
• Values. Volunteer involvement benefits the volunteer, the organization and society.
• Guiding principles. Volunteers have both rights and responsibilities.
• Organizational standards. Organizations should consider 12 standards when developing or reviewing volunteer involvement. These range from program administration to recognition.
A downloadable copy of the code can be found at www.volunteer.ca.