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Volunteerism on the rise among youth

By: Sabrina Bedford

According to a survey done by Statistics Canada on the volunteering trends of Canadians, young people are the most likely age group to volunteer their time to help those in need.

Kristine Pettit chases kindergarten-aged kids around every Friday morning, and she isn’t expecting a paycheque in return.

Pettit, a graduate of Algonquin’s tourism and travel program, chooses to volunteer at a local school while attending full-time classes at Carleton University.

“I decided to volunteer because I knew I wanted to, but I didn’t know where,” she said. “After thinking about it and doing research, I discovered the Ottawa Network of Education where many people volunteer in public schools within the city.”

She’s hoping to become a teacher in the future, so it was a natural step for her to volunteer with children to gain experience in a school setting.

And according to Statistics Canada, she isn’t alone.

The agency’s most recent report on volunteering trends shows younger Canadians are more likely to volunteer their time than older Canadians.

For instance, 58 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 reported doing volunteer work in 2010.

Contrarily, a separate StatsCan report shows that financial donations tend to increase with age, and younger people are the least likely age group to donate money.

Jeremy McQuigge, a professor in the business administration department at Algonquin College and NextGen cabinet chair for United Way Ottawa, said while the charity is seeing a lower number of donors, the amount of people volunteering is increasing.

“Ottawa has some of the highest donor and philanthropy rates in the country,” he said. “Volunteer hours are on the rise as young people give time and resources when they are struggling to find full-time employment.”

McQuigge believes rates of employment greatly affect donor levels, and due to that there are currently fewer donors giving more money.

“Our annual campaign currently has the highest level of donations per donor than ever before,” he said.
Lisa Shaw-Verhoek, a professor in the social service worker program, teaches her students there are four ways to donate: money, time, goods and ideas.

“I believe that they all can be equally valuable,” she said. “A good idea might result in a new social enterprise activity and donating goods can keep things out of landfills and assist others to get items that they need.”

Shaw-Verhoek says in her experience, that even though students want to volunteer, some simply don’t have the time.
“I have found that many students are interested in volunteering, however they have classes, online coursework, homework and group work, and most have to engage in paid work in order to fund their schooling,” she said. “As a result, volunteering is often lowest on the list of priorities.”

While it may not be a top priority, the reports indicate that students are still finding the time to volunteer, despite their busy schedules.

“I absolutely love it,” said Pettit. “I help out with everything in the classroom because they definitely need the help, but it is especially great to be able to help the children to learn how to read.”


  • Anne Leach

    Great article. We get what we give, and as you mention, if you cannot give hours of labour, one can always lend an ear, write a letter or read a book to a child or elder.

    Thanks for the volunteers – you do make a difference.

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