Archive for the ‘Volunteer’ Category

All Lives Enriched

May 4, 2009

First, some news: due to a current account problem I might not get a podcast up this week. I am working on it but I can’t make any guarantees on that. Rest assured that The Alder Fork Podcast will be back as soon as I can get it up.

Recently on the podcast, I discussed the Change the World Youth Challenge. I was working with Volunteer Hamilton to encourage youth aged 14-18 to volunteer during National Volunteer Week.  We received some media coverage but I wanted to use my space to congratulate the over 1200 students who volunteered last week. Collectively they contributed 7000+ hours to a number of local agencies.  Although the data is still being collected it appears that Hamilton has exceeded all other centres in Ontario.  I am absolutely amazed by the efforts of our young people.  We set out on this project with modest goals of 700 students (in a city of over 500 000 people) and 3000 hours.  It seems likely that the final results will give us more than double that.  Our success is a direct result of the efforts of teachers, administrators, and especially the students.  They took to this project with zeal, and I can honestly say that our future is in good hands.  I couldn’t find an exact number there must be around 80 000 – 100 000 students in this city.  We only counted registered students but I know that an equal number of unregistered students participated in volunteer activities during NVW, either because they volunteer every week, or because they participated in special events like the MS Walk of Earth Day Hamilton.

I am so proud of what young people have done in Hamilton.  For many of our participants this was just one stop on a lifetime of volunteering, and for others this is the beginning of something special.  Youth are often dismissed as troublesome or self-centred. I am grateful that I was able to witness quite the opposite in the many young people I encountered last week.  If you live in Hamilton, this is a good day to be proud of your city.

You Can Dance If You Want To

April 23, 2009

I don’t usually write about the day-to-day going-ons in my life. Today will be an exception.  I spent Wednesday traveling to several seniors residences and Participation House  As part of my work with the Change the World Youth Challenge for Volunteer Hamilton.  Although the performances were only 25-30 minutes long, these young people created a connection with their audience that was remarkable.  I was reminded of my own days performing as a teenager in front of appreciative crowds.  The beauty of this event was the collision of two groups seeking an opportunity.  The dancers were craving a chance to perform their well practiced moves, and the audiences, people who spend most of their times in the same place, love when something new and exciting enters their world.  The recreation coordinator at Participation House told the group that their residents only see dancing once a year, when this samba group visits.  You could argue that there is a lot of dancing on TV, but a live performance is much more powerful and compelling. Regardless, experiencing the enthusiasm of the dancers and the audience was a treat. Even though all I did was organize the tour (a pretty easy task) I was very pleased to be part of it.

I witnessed one more special moment during this little tour.  After one of the performances there was a gap of about 30 minutes before the bus returned.  As the students lingered in the atrium around a grand piano, one elderly resident in a wheel chair pulled up.  He began to play some songs and the 20 or so teenagers gathered around to cheer him on and applaud his playing.  It was a magical little moment where young and old bonded over some classic tunes. All around an amazing day.

Do You Have Some Time?

April 21, 2009

New podcast up tonight.  It’s National Volunteer Week here in Canada and I have Jen Grebeldinger from Timeraiser Hamilton. The May 9th event is an art auction where volunteer hours act as currency.  This unique event began in Toronto and has grown to many communities across the country.  This is the first Hamilton edition and you can get ticket information at the website. I also expand on the topic of volunteerism and my involvement with the Change the World Ontario Youth Challenge.

Over 12 million Canadians volunteer every year.  Advocates, like myself, point out to anyone who will listen that volunteerism is an integral part of this country.  It is strange to think that in many countries people aren’t giving as much of their free time to improve their society.  It is perhaps even more impressive because of the diverse nature of Canada. People from all over the world come here and many find themselves sharing in the spirit of volunteerism.

Music by two Canadian groups that need little introduction,  Great Lake Swimmers and The Stills.

Give It Up

March 6, 2009

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.

Whispers, In the Dark

December 24, 2008

And my gratitude goes out to you.

Urban Moon


New podcast is up today.  As always you can get the feed over on the side, or just click on the link for iTunes and subscribe there. This week is Winter-themed, with me talking endlessly about the stuff I think about when I’m shoveling snow, and playing music by The Mass Romantics, Urban Moon, Matt Blacquiere, and The Alder Fork. Yep I catered to my friends. But it’s Christmas here, so deal with it! It’s also Hanukkah so I hope the season is going well for my Jewish friends. Since the bands today don’t have websites, except for The Mass Romantics, this will not be the usual link day. Indeed since it is Christmas Eve, and I will most likely be enjoying the freedom of the season (aren’t I always?) I want to give you some happy thoughts to move ahead with.

My sources tell me that volunteerism has reached an all time high in North America. I certainly hope this is true because it means that more and more people are taking responsibility for bettering their communities. After all it is really about community now, certainly more than it’s been in a long time.  As someone who grew up ina city I know how unusual it is for people to associate with their neighbours in a meaningful way. Fortunately around here there is snow to be shovelled so we get to see some of the members of our community when we move their snow around.  Otherwise, who knows when we’d see them.  Even in this city there is a difference depending on which neighbourhood you are in. In the older parts of the city people tend to know each other and interact a lot more than in the new. Unless you have children who happen to be friends (increasingly rare I think) what other reason do you have to see the people down the block?  The importance of community is clearest when the economy is struggling or the weather is bad. It is at those moments that we rely on others to come together with us for mutual benefit.  Christmas generally puts people in a giving mood and let’s hope 2009 finds that spirit rolling on.  Thanks for your continuted support of The Alder Fork. If you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift, why not give The Lights I See You In Shadow, because it’s free and it’s good! Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah!