Before I get into today’s post I have a bit of an ad. I need some musicians for a show on Sept. 12th. I am particularly looking for a pianist, drummer, bassist, and violinist. If you or anyone you know is interested you can reach me here.
I recently began a new job that has me encouraging young people to volunteer in their community. It also has me working in downtown Hamilton. I have enjoyed the experience of working right in the core because it’s quite unique. From my desk I can see out our main window and into the street. All day long a diverse cast passes by, some noticing I’m there, but most not. Hamilton’s downtown has such a wide range of people that no one looks out of place. It’s exciting that many of the downtown buildings are being improved so that the entire area is more alive and exciting.
My main point today concerns the idea of engaging youth in social action, primarily through volunteering. Currently in Ontario, high school students are obligated to complete 40 hours of community service in order to receive their diplomas. This is primarily the reason why youth now have the greatest total number of volunteers out of any age category in Canada (a country with 12 million volunteers by the way). Yet senior citizens still perform more hours of service than anyone else. The loss of a large chunk of volunteer hours as our aging population passes away is one of the great fears in the not-for-profit community. Middle-aged volunteers have typically been less committed than their parents or grandparents. This means that many are only around for a limited period of time to perform a specific task, and aren’t interested in giving multiple years to an organization, something that was the norm 20 years ago.
The main solution, as I see it, is to change the next generations relationship to volunteering. When I was in high school, only 8 years ago, many of my friends spent hundreds of hours volunteering for various agencies ranging from soup kitchens to theatre companies to sports leagues. The same holds true of my university friends. I have faith that my own generation and the one that is growing up now will be able to step up and take responsibility for providing the billions of dollars of free labour that volunteers provide each year. Does my optimism have a source? Well yes, agencies like Volunteer Hamilton are making a conscious effort (perhaps unique in all of human history) to encourage volunteerism among youth by presenting with compelling reasons to get involved. New Canadians are also being told that volunteering is a part of the fabric of our society. It seems likely that Canada will continue to be a world leader in volunteerism.