It’s fitting that April is the month that we nationally recognize our volunteers: spring brings to mind images of flowers blooming, new growth and with it, new opportunities. Volunteers in turn breathe new life into non-profit organizations like United Way, providing helping hands, friendly faces, welcoming presence and opportunities for us to reach further and grow more within our communities.
Time is one of our most precious commodities and the decision to donate our time to support an organization as a volunteer should be thoughtfully considered. Some points that may impact your decision could include: your ability to commit, how the volunteer role will match your skill set, what is the readiness of the organization to involve volunteers and does the volunteer role provide meaning to your life and will it create personal impact.
Your ability to commit: Can I really show up – that is, really take the time to fulfill the expectations of the volunteer role? Volunteers are a serious and essential part of non-profit organizations and the work that they do. If you say you will help, can your truly do that – and be honest about this.
How does the volunteer role match your skill set: Doing a bit of research about the organization and speaking to people within it should assist in this process. If you find that the organization you’re researching isn’t a good fit, don’t worry, there are plenty of other organizations that could be.
What is the readiness of the organization to involve volunteers: The non-profit world, just like any other business, can be a bit messy at times. Regardless, if they are asking for help, they should have some fundamental processes in place to make volunteers feel valued. Position descriptions, orientation and training processes and some sort of policy or strategy to integrate volunteers into their work should be in place before you agree to donate your time.
Does the volunteer role give some meaning or impact to you personally: Let’s face it, not all volunteer work is glamorous – sometimes what is needed, is answering phones, greeting people and yes, even stuffing envelopes. But just like any other work, what you get out of it, depends on what you put into it. Making a conscious decision to truly own what you do can make an impact on you and others.
United Way volunteers are indeed indispensable. Most of our organization is composed of volunteers and so we take our volunteers and their roles seriously. We offer several different opportunities that can be intrinsically rewarding to you: organizing a Workplace Campaign, joining one of United Ways’ committees, help us at one of our Special Events, becoming UW Ambassador for our Days of Caring®, contributing your skills to assist us in our office – the choice is yours.
Connection is a necessary element for living a healthy and successful life. When we are connected to other people and our community, we feel supported, listened to and valued. When we are connected to other people, our struggles, challenges and obstacles appear more manageable and life is brighter. At its core, Kelowna Community Resources (KCR) strives to build connections between individuals, families, community organizations, social supports and the greater community and is proud to be a part of Sachie and Doris’ story.
Sachie and Doris arrived in the Central Okanagan with their families approximately two years ago. Although they immigrated at different times from different countries and to different parts of Canada, both acknowledged that initially, adjusting to life in Canada was very difficult. When asked what advice they would give to someone who has just immigrated to Canada, Sachie and Doris shared, “There will be lots of cultural shock, and the first few years will be tough, but by keeping a positive attitude, an open mind and refusing to give up, things will get better.”
Upon arriving in the Central Okanagan, both Doris and Sachie started meeting with Settlement Workers at KCR, where they received support and information about adjusting to life in the Central Okanagan and Canada. It was at a job preparation workshop organized by Kelowna Community Resources where Doris and Sachie first met. After the workshop, they met for coffee, where they first discovered many mutual interests including the environmental aftermath of Fukushima nuclear disaster. What was intended to be a brief visit turned into a multi-hour conversation as they discussed their shared passions. They continue to meet for coffee, have started arranging play dates for their children and regularly attend the monthly International Potluck Night at KCR’s Gathering Place program.
Regarding their friendship, Doris told me, “I feel a connection with Sachie. While I was getting used to Canada, I felt like I had lost a part of my personality and had not been able to find such a deep friendship in Canada until I met Sachie. Sachie supports me a lot and is so positive, she really helps me to focus on what I can do to make myself happier.” Similarly, Sachie has nothing but kind words for Doris, saying “Her unique stories and experiences bring spice into my life.” Both also acknowledged the important role that KCR played in their adjustment. “ I am very grateful for all of the workers’ help,” quotes Doris.
With time, perseverance, friendship and connecting with organizations such as KCR, Sachie and Doris have overcome many of the challenges of starting a new life somewhere different and are happy to call Canada their home.
Success by 6®, as a United Way impact initiative, focuses on supporting preventative health and development programs for children six years of age or less and their families. Amanda Turner is the Success by 6 Coordinator and a mother of two boys.
Ever questioned whether you are doing the “right” thing as a parent? Have you Googled whether a behaviour your child is doing is “normal”? Do you find more confusing information, opinions and tips than you know what to do with? Well, welcome to parenthood!
Since the dawn of time parents have questioned their abilities, skills and knowledge to raise the next generation. In times past, extended families had a large role in supporting new parents, mostly new moms, in their exponentially increased tasks with an infant in the house. Grandmothers, aunties, neighbours and friends were on hand with casseroles as well as tips, support and answers about what works.
While times have changed, babies and children still do not come with instruction manuals. These days, many families no longer live near extended family and are less surrounded by the community of support needed to cope with raising young children. On top of that, the world has changed, parents are dealing with different questions and concerns than their parents did. Today they are facing more financial pressure, increased expectations, increased marketing toward children, cyber-bullying, social media and screen addictions at ever younger ages.
While all families are comprised with different people and are facing different challenges, the fact is that parents have a desire to do their best and to raise their children to their best potential - that ties all parents together.
The new Okanagan Parent Conference is focusing on these ties that bind. The conference will be taking place on Saturday, April 5th and will feature speakers and topics geared toward all parents with children from infant to pre-teen. Parents will be able to register mid-February for the one-day conference which will offer child-minding, lunch, keynote address, and your choice of workshops all for a bargain price. The Okanagan Parent Conference is sponsored by the Credit Unions of BC and is being presented by Success by 6 along with local credit unions and community partners.
For more information or to register head to www.okanaganparentconference.com
Many people are surprised to learn that there are more than 100 local United Ways in Canada. Each United Way serves multiple communities within their territory. In the Okanagan region, there are two United Ways: North Okanagan Columbia Shuswap (serving the region spanning from Vernon to Golden , Nakusp and Sorrento) and Central and South Okanagan Similkameen (serving the region from Oyama to Osoyoos and Princeton.
A wise person once stated that day to day interactions are the building blocks of our society. United Way is made of local community members, who bring together their financial resources, knowledge, skill sets, visions, labour, media, community leaders, and a host of other resources that can be leveraged to create change in an efficient and lasting way. As each person reaches out within their own network and engages others, hands and hearts join to form a social safety net. That net is the United Way.
The vast majority of United Way’s “hands on deck” are volunteers; a small number of staff in the Okanagan help to coordinate this collective of caring and committed citizens. This is one of the reasons that United Way is so efficient. Another reason is the ability to leverage everyone’s resources, so that the impact of the movement is greater than the initial investment.
Here’s how it works in practice. Someone connected to United Way visits a children’s charity. They learn that the playground has a safety problem. The charity doesn’t have the money, time, or skills to repair the problem, but the children still need a safe place to play. A phone call is placed to one of the companies who run a workplace fundraising campaign, and they mobilize a team of employee volunteers to help out. The charity learns that they can apply to the United Way Community Fund to cover the cost of materials, and a volunteer team reviews the application to make a funding decision. Local media help out by letting everyone in the community know what is happening. A café provides sandwiches and coffee for the volunteers. A tradesperson steps forward to contribute expertise to the repair job. The municipality helps with getting the proper licensing and inspection for the work.
As more people get involved, they too discover that they have ways to give, volunteer, or take action to support kids. In this way, the needs of children in the community are taken care of, which makes the community stronger and healthier for everyone.
In addition to supporting children and youth, United Way also works to create change on issues like health and wellness, the needs of seniors, abuse, diverse abilities, and poverty.
Many people don’t realize that the services they rely on are supported by United Way. Know someone who had surgery and needed to borrow medical equipment? Or do you know any young people who have attended a youth centre or looked for volunteer opportunities? Have you been touched by someone with a mental illness, or do you know a senior who struggles with day to day tasks? United Way has a positive impact on all of these social issues.
Want to belong to a thriving movement, and see your contributions result in real change? Check out your local United Way. For the North Okanagan, visit www.unitedwaynocs.com. For Central and South Okanagan, visit www.unitedwaycso.com . We can’t wait to meet you!
This column was submitted by Avril Paice, Director of Community Investment, United Way of the Central and South Okanagan Similkameen.
Read more Change Starts Here articles
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- Helping kids be all that they can be Oct 5
- New grants for charities Aug 6
- Unity House: healthy connections Jul 2
- Moving from poverty to possibility: Jim's story Jun 2
- Changes & the charitable sector Apr 28
- Giving back: Part 2 Jan 20
- Giving back: Part 1 Jan 6
- Hampers for Holidays Dec 23
- 360 Degree Young Professionals Dec 9
- Inn from the Cold Nov 25
- Those who serve Nov 11
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