By Lily Viggiano, former Halton Youth Initiative Project Coordinator
“Volunteering is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” – anonymous. This is a quote I often reflect on. It sums up the importance of volunteerism and the broader activity of community involvement powerfully. I’ve used this quote in school presentations on community involvement, numerous volunteer orientations, and my individual meetings with youth.
Having spent the last eight years working in the youth sector, focusing predominantly on volunteerism, I strongly believe that one must be able to help others understand the value of volunteerism. Each effort, no matter how small or seemingly mundane, when done for the greater good will lead to positive changes. This is particularly important when it comes to engaging youth in these activities.
Adults Play a Role in Encouraging Youth to Volunteer
It is a great privilege to work with young volunteers, especially those on their first experience of community involvement. This experience can set the tone for the rest of their lives, something that weighs heavily on me. I often ask myself if they will volunteer again when it’s no longer mandatory for school, or what will their lasting impression of community involvement be like. I urge those who work with youth in these capacities to remember that. I also urge those who have young people in their lives to be cognizant of how they talk about volunteerism, community involvement, and “community” in general.
Growing up, I was fortunate to be surrounded by adults who helped me see the value of volunteerism from a young age. My grandmother was a volunteer manager at Trillium Hospital in Etobicoke, and my mother helped at the schools my sibling and I attended. For me, being involved was just what you do, and was as equally important as working, building a family, enjoying your hobbies, and running errands.
How can the Community Support Youth Volunteerism?
Beyond the idea of having a “volunteer position”, a specific role at a set organization, the ideation around community involvement is even more important.
How are we modelling community involvement to the young people in our lives? How do we talk about voting? Do we show care and interest in our neighbourhood? In what ways are we supporting local businesses and farmers? Our actions and discussion on these activities with youth are critical and leave lasting impacts.
Now more than ever we need to rally together as a community, as caring adults to support children and youth. The proof is in the stats (explore the Halton Youth Impact Survey).Youth need us to see them, support them, and make engaging with the community a meaningful and safe experience for them.
So join me in making an ongoing vote for the type of community we want to live in – one where children and youth in Halton can thrive!