Dorothee Birker (Photography: Aaron Hemens)

Dorothee Birker (Photography: Aaron Hemens)

Volunteering offers insight to chosen career paths

Dorothee Birker — Women in Business

In this 30th edition of Women in Business, women were interviewed who are employed in front-line positions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

These women share their stories of overcoming negativity, working with the community and turning unpredictable situations into something positive— in the hope that their perseverance and success will become the guiding light for the next generation of women in business.

Women in Business shows who the movers and the shakers are in Kelowna and that there is always a space to share stories of successful women.

The call for volunteerism is asking people to give of their time to help others in their community.

But what sometimes is overlooked is the value that is returned to volunteers from donating their time and knowledge to help a given cause, how it expands their own personal career network, exercise passions for areas of interest beyond their daily jobs and utilizes a skill-set of built-up knowledge in a fulfilling manner.

For Dorothee Birker, communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources, espousing the values of volunteerism reflects how that exposure changed her own direction in life.

After graduating with a political science degree from university, Birker found herself following a career path as an event organizer, working as artistic director for the Fat Cat Children’s Festival and many other events here in Kelowna, which showed her how important volunteers are for staging community events.

Her career path veered in a different direction than she originally anticipated, in part because she saw an opportunity to make a difference in her community and people’s lives.

Birker says volunteering to help charitable causes expands one’s personal network in a community.

She believes insight on chosen career paths can also be better understood by volunteering in those areas, such as a counsellor giving their time to support a crisis line service or athletes who want to become a coach in their sport coaching youngsters to gain exposure to that role of leadership.

“A lot of people have different passions they don’t always get to explore through their careers and so they feel like something is missing in their lives,” Birker said.

“Volunteering offers that opportunity to bring different experiences into your life. You even see employers now that encourage their employees to donate some of their time towards volunteering for causes they choose to support as a valuable exercise in team building.”

The spirit of volunteerism is ingrained in the school system, she notes, such as older elementary school students serving as mentors for incoming students.

“My son still remembers the mentor-student he had in Grade 2 and what an impact that had on him at that age,” she said.

“It builds a value system and teaches leadership for the older kids, and the younger ones are so excited to have the attention of their peers.”

On the opposite end of the age demographic, Kelowna is a draw for people opting to retire here, and they bring with them career skills and a desire to continue to be active and involved, which again volunteering can help facilitate in a myriad of ways.

“When you continue to learn and progress it helps keep you young. The more people who participate in helping others in their community, the better your community will become,” Birker said.

“And it’s not the same obligations as a career, people can donate as much time as they choose and do things they really want to do.”

KCR Community Resources provides the opportunity to match potential volunteers with community organizations that fit with their interests and skill-sets.

“We also provide resources and guidance to organizations for how to manage volunteers, help them through the screening process to find a positive match,” she said.

She said for those volunteering on non-profit agency boards, COVID-19 has presented some unforeseen challenges as funding sources have been cancelled by public health orders.

“It has been a tough road for board directors the past two years having to deal with a lot of things that nobody was really prepared for,” Birker said.

For more information about volunteer opportunities, check out the KCR Community Resources website at kcr.ca.

women in business