May 17th, 2012

Picture of someone pulling out an empty pocket.

As a university student, it can feel difficult to give back.  As a starving student myself, I know firsthand that when you’re living off instant noodles and your neighbour’s Wi-Fi, giving to others can be the last thing on your mind.  And being bombarded by street canvassers and commercials asking for credit card numbers can make it seem like giving funds is the only way to give at all.  But we forget that we students can still offer to organizations what they often need most of all: ourselves.

Image of clickable to Getinvolved's Volunteer Quiz.

More and more organizations are beginning to realize the potential in youth volunteers. Many organizations now offer opportunities specifically targeted to youth.  Or you can check out Getinvolved! for new ways to personalize your volunteer opportunities.

Getinvolved! is Canada’s largest volunteer network and it features a Volunteer Quiz lets you pinpoint your helping out style and a Get Matched tool lets you specify your skills, interests, and location and then provides you with a wealth of relevant opportunities to choose from.

Love theatre?  Volunteer with a Fringe Fest troupe and get in on some free shows.  Something of an amateur chef?  Help out at the WOTCH Centre Bistro.  Social butterfly?  Make new friends with the Alzheimer’s Society Companion program

Cartoon of virtual volunteer "superhero".

Now, despite what our profs may think, not all of us have loads of extra time on our hands.  But everyone needs to avoid their coursework sometimes!  Turn that procrastination into purpose with a virtual volunteering opportunity that you can do from the comfort of your room.   I guarantee it to be way more satisfying than lurking Facebook and way less guilt inducing.

Cartoon of travelling volunteer with suitcase, camera, and shovel.

Or maybe you’re looking for something to do on your summer vacation?  UGH, responsibility during summertime, I know… But it doesn’t always have to be a drag.  Check out something fun like buddying up with a kid in need.  Or maybe even get involved with a voluntourism project and spend your summer somewhere exotic!

Getinvolved! promises all it’s users a perfect volunteer match and student volunteers exemplify this completely.  We can offer our enthusiasm, our free time, and  theoretically a focused area of expertise and interest (*ahem* undeclared arts major over here!)  that we’re at least relatively educated in.  And NFP organizations are able to offer us what we need most of all: experience.

Cartoon of resume

We’ve all struggled with the old paradox: it’s impossible to get hired without having experience, but it’s impossible to get experience without having a job.  Well it’s not so impossible anymore.  Not-for-profit organizations often provide their volunteers with training that can translate into valuable skills for future employment.  Plus, volunteer experience is great to have on your resume.  It gives employers not only a sense of your qualifications, but also a sense of your character that can help you stand out from the crowd!

Cartoons of people in various occupations

It’s even possible for your volunteer position to become your job.  I, personally, am now co-manager at a non-profit child care centre where I started out as–you guessed it!–a volunteer.  And it’s a pretty common phenomenon for students doing volunteer internships as well.  For many of us starving students, volunteering is an important step on the path to becoming not-so-starving anymore.

Clip art of various signs with volunteer messages.

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