Volunteering for community, connection and opportunity!

It’s National Volunteer Week 2020! Here’s a volunteering success story and tips on volunteering

It was 2008 when Maureen Chang first arrived in Canada from Taiwan with her young family. Like many newcomers, life in Canada was an adjustment. While her husband found work, she decided to stay at home with their two girls.

“I realized that the school day here is very short so I couldn’t really work at first,” says Maureen, who worked in marketing for a pharmaceutical company in Taiwan.

Maureen Chang always ready to lend a helping hand volunteering at DIVERSEcity events.

But while her kids were at school, she started to volunteer.  “I want to learn about Canadian culture through interacting with other people here in my neighbourhood. So I started volunteering with a local neighbourhood house as well as with DIVERSEcity, which I noticed was very friendly to newcomers.”

She was trained to be a volunteer coordinator for DIVERSEcity’s then Host Program, which matched newcomers with Canadians.

“Before, I was sitting at home and not doing anything. Volunteering helped me get out beyond my household; I only knew my husband and two kids!” says Maureen. “Volunteering helped me connect with my community where I lived.”

Although it wasn’t her intention, volunteering also led to her first job in Canada, less than two years after landing. When a part-time job opened up at DIVERSEcity on its settlement team, Maureen was ready to re-enter the workforce. “The manager and staff sort of knew me already, so they encouraged me to apply,” she says. Maureen was offered the job, and, with her kids now older and settled in at school, she readily accepted.

Maureen is today a newcomer settlement and support worker with DIVERSEcity, helping new immigrants find their footing in Surrey, BC, helping them in both English and Chinese.

What does Maureen’s experience tell us about volunteering? It can lead to many positive things — community, connection and opportunity.

Want to volunteer? Here are some things to consider

Where to look for volunteer opportunities

  • Non-profit organizations
  • Professional associations and councils
  • Educational, governmental, religious or community agencies
  • Professional, educational or community boards
  • Events, fairs and conferences

What you should look for in a volunteer opportunity

  • Clear job description of what you’ll be doing and other expectations
  • Understanding of how many hours you will be committing
  • Proper orientation and training
  • Tasks that allow you to practise your skillset in the Canadian context or learn new skills
  • Benefits such as a reference letter, training and certificates

Tips to make the most of the volunteering opportunity

  • Be punctual, accountable and committed
  • Be professional: dress and behave appropriately
  • Show your skills but be open to listening and learning
  • Treat it like a job: don’t miss a shift without informing your supervisor and give them notice if you have to quit
  • Use the opportunity to network and make new professional connections
  • Be open about your employment goals — maybe volunteering will lead to a job with the organization
  • Have fun and make friends!