By Sheryl Smolkin
On Thanksgiving, Canadians have many things to give thanks for. We live in a free country and most of us have adequate food and shelter. But with community resources increasingly stretched to the limit, the volunteer sector is a more critical link than ever to those who need a hand out or a hand up.
An April 2012 Statistics Canada study reports that over 13.3 million people accounting for 47 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and over did volunteer work in 2010. They devoted almost 2.07 billion hours to their volunteer activities: a volume of work that is equivalent to just under 1.1 million full-time jobs.
Rates of volunteerism vary considerably by province and territory, but Saskatchewan residents have much to be proud of. The highest rate of volunteerism was recorded in their home province, where 58 per cent of adults 15 and over did volunteer work in 2010.
If you have the money, it’s definitely easier to write a check and charities do need your money. You can also enhance your children’s financial literacy by asking them to allocate a portion of their allowance or part-time earnings to charitable donations.
But as outlined on helpguide.org, giving your time instead of your money can have some surprising benefits. For example:
- Volunteering connects you to others: You can make new friends and contacts. You can increase your social and relationship skills. While it might be a challenge to coordinate everyone’s schedules, volunteering as a family also has many worthwhile benefits. By giving back to the community, you show your children firsthand how volunteering makes a difference and how good it feels to help others
- Volunteering is good for your health: Volunteering increases your self-confidence. It can also help to improve your mental health because you develop a strong support system that you can call on in difficult times. In addition, staying active can improve physical health, particularly for older adults.
- Volunteering can advance your career: Volunteering can help you get experience in your area of interest and meet people in the field. For example, if you are interested in nursing, you could volunteer in a hospital. You can also learn valuable workplace skills like teamwork, communications, problem-solving and task management. Excellent references from co-workers and supervisors are a valuable collateral benefit.
- Volunteering can be fun: Volunteering is a fun and easy way to explore your passions. Many people volunteer in order to make time for hobbies outside of work. For instance, if you have a desk job and long to spend time outdoors, you might consider volunteering to help plant a community garden, lead local hikes, or help at a children’s camp.
There are many valuable resources about volunteering on the Volunteer Saskatoon website including:
- Why volunteer?
- Ways to volunteer
- Steps to picking a volunteer opportunity
- What volunteer opportunity is right for you (questionnaire)
- Where you can find volunteer opportunities
- Rights and responsibilities
Whether you coach a team, give time to an arts organization, sit on a not-for-profit board or volunteer abroad, consider helping others when you give thanks this year.
Do you have tips for people who are exploring a volunteer commitment? Share your tips with us at http://wp.me/P1YR2T-JR and your name will be entered in a quarterly draw for a gift card. And remember to put a dollar in the retirement savings jar every time you use one of our money-saving ideas.
If you would like to send us other money saving ideas, here are the themes for the next three weeks:
|17-Oct||Halloween||Cheap and cheerful costumes, snacks|
|24-Oct||Charity||How to raise money for almost anything on Indiegogo|
|31-Oct||Winter travel||Planning your winter getaway|
 Volunteer Saskatoon is program of the Saskatoon area United Way. Before the end of 2013, resources on the Volunteer Saskatoon website will be transferred to the United Way of Saskatoon and Area website, http://www.unitedwaysaskatoon.ca/ where they will continue to be available to the entire community.