By Dorothee Birker, Contributor.
It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week, and this year Volunteer Canada has chosen “Volunteering is Empathy in Action” as the official theme.
The theme is meant to affirm the profoundly human connection at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities.
Empathy helps people relate to others and builds awareness around different experiences. Volunteering is a key way for us to develop empathy, as we see the world through the eyes of others. Volunteering connects us to people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, expanding our worldview, and it builds our capacity to work collectively to build a vibrant, inclusive society.
Volunteering can help us build skills and knowledge in our professional area as well as take us into a completely different realm, where we can make a difference in our passion areas.
A friend once shared that by volunteering at a homeless shelter, she came to understand the complexity of people experiencing homelessness so much better because she was able to connect with them on a very human level.
The folks she saw daily became less a group defined by their circumstances, and more individuals with hopes, dreams and experiences that had so much value. The life-changing volunteer role changed her understanding of how we as a society need to address homelessness.
Recently, I interviewed two Crisis Line responders about their experiences providing an invisible safety net to our community, and I was struck by how for both of them, the simple truth of how they made the most difference for people calling into the Crisis Line was just by being there and by listening.
Both responders remarked their personal lives were enhanced through their volunteer work.
Their comments included making them more tolerant and less prejudiced, and with volunteeer work “there’s nothing like that feeling of knowing you have helped somebody be safe.”
In Central Okanagan, there are about700 non-profit organizations that rely on volunteers to achieve their mission. In Canada, there are over 170,000 and 59 per cent of these are solely run by volunteers.
These organizations impact everyone’s daily lives by addressing social issues and adding social value to our communities locally and nationally.
Imagine if the volunteers didn’t show up for their critical role. What would our world look like then? What are the things we would be missing out on?
So from all of us at the Volunteer Centre of the Central Okanagan, we want to give a massive shout-out to all of the volunteers in the region.
Thank you to all of you action-oriented, empathetic, difference-makers.
Thank you to you for sharing your time, your energy and your best selves to make the world a better place.