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Let's Help our Neighbours
Celebrating International Volunteer Day

Volunteering helped me adapt to a new country, a new life. It made me feel like I belonged. I moved to Canada when I was 15 years-old, and I can say from personal experience that it was not easy. I didn’t know anyone, except for my family, and I had a minimum level of English, which limited me to meet people.

I moved when I was still in high-school so the school required students to volunteer a minimum of 40 hours during their high-school time. Before I moved to Mississauga, I had to do some volunteer work, but I think I didn’t realize the significance of it until I was the one who needed volunteerism to feel part of the community.

 

Many newcomers in the Peel region are interested in volunteering because it helps them improve their language skills, it gives them the opportunity to acquire professional experience, and it allows them to meet and socialize with their community neighbours.

 

Volunteering is an essential activity in people’s lives. Not everyone volunteers for the same reason. For example, when I was 15 I saw volunteering as my chance to integrate with my neighbours. Now, being a graduate student trying to enter the workforce in the sector I want to be in, I have volunteering as a resource to gain work experience.

 

No matter individuals’ reasons behind volunteering, we still have the same end goal: to contribute to the community and help our community neighbours.

 

On December 5th, 2020, we will be celebrating the 35th International Volunteer Day (IVD). IVD is an international celebration that was mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1985. According to the UN, this Day gives the opportunity for individuals and organizations to promote volunteerism, encourage governments to support volunteer efforts and recognize volunteer contributions to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at local, national, and international levels.

 

If I could describe 2020 in one word, I would say: unprecedented. COVID-19 has put us to the test. It forced us to change things we were used to doing, like going to malls for Christmas shopping. Now almost everything can be done online without having to go out, warm up your car, and clean up the snow. We had to adapt to a new lifestyle that brought along multiple restrictions.

 

Despite all these changes, we have proven to be a flexible and determined community, globally and nationally. Volunteerism is a sector that was immensely impacted by the pandemic. Many volunteer events required the presence of multiple people in the same place. However, people have managed to continue volunteering in a safe and social distanced form.

 

According to Statistics Canada, the informal way of volunteering increased during these times of COVID-19 because many individuals chose to support their neighbours directly. There have been numerous examples of individuals taking direct action to help others, including picking up and dropping off groceries and other supplies in the community, cooking meals, sewing non-medical masks, sharing information and offering emotional support via online social media platforms.

 

The community continues to demonstrate that volunteerism is a key sector that will not disappear because we can no longer have big events with multiple people in the same space. I believe the pandemic helped people realize the community needs each other to pull through different challenges, like COVID-19.

 

This year, let’s celebrate IVD by reminding ourselves and others that helping our neighbour through volunteering brings out the good in you, in others, and in our whole community.

Valentina Figueroa
Volunteer Content Writer, Media Team