In an effort to encourage students to be more active in their communities, the TRUSU Engage for Change Club hosted a volunteer workshop on Nov. 5.
The session, which was held in the TRUSU Lecture Hall of the Campus Activity Centre, was facilitated by Lisa Mort-Putland, the Executive Director at Volunteer Victoria.
Stating that there is not one single “algorithm for volunteering,” Mort-Putland taught students how they could participate in “no guilt, no shame” volunteering and maximize the amount of knowledge they gain from a given experience.
“I believe when we unpack who we are and why we volunteer, we get better experiences,” she said. “Knowing why we’re doing it is really the top tier.”
Telling students that she’s going to make them promise to leave a volunteer position that isn’t working for them, Mort-Putland also alluded to the shifting paradigm in the volunteer sector.
“Volunteerism is changing because the world of community-engaged learning is changing,” she said.
“30 years ago, volunteerism was something where there were far more volunteer positions than there were volunteers and then, people began to volunteer and volunteer and volunteer.”
She explained that today, students can expect their volunteering options to change as they “emerge into working professionals.”
“They are not the same now as they were 10-15 years ago because statistically, volunteering has dropped,” she said.
She added that as it stands now, a significant portion of volunteers in the country are over the age of 60.
Once this demographic reaches 75, Mort-Putland says they usually stop volunteering which causes volunteering numbers to plummet.
“Now what ‘s happening statistically is people between 35 and 45 are volunteering less,” she said.
“Why is that important? Because those are the folks that use to be leadership volunteers. They would sit on boards (and) on committees where decisions were made.”
Mort-Putland stated that this factor is great news for university students because now more than ever, there are “new opportunities” for young professionals to move into leadership positions sooner.
“When you’re volunteering out in the community what you will find is there will be lots of people in their 20s and 30s, then there will be a gap for people in their 40s and then you will be volunteering with 60 and 70-year olds,” she explained.
“Volunteering is about to become far more intergenerational, cross-cultural, intercultural (and) diverse…because the trends continue to change.”
Still, Mort-Putland insisted that students should expect to gain something from every volunteer experience they participate in.
“There are a million reasons why people volunteer but there is an exchange.”
“One of the rights and the responsibilities you have as a volunteer is not to create a work-like employment relationship,” she told students.
Insisting that volunteerism is not about “giving your time freely for nothing,” she added that they should also determine what they want out of a volunteer opportunity beforehand.
“Is it learning? Is it inclusion? Is it mentorship or opportunities to access information and knowledge?” she asked.
“You should never volunteer where you are basically an unpaid worker. That’s illegal. You should also never replace paid staff, that is also illegal,” she insisted.
The entire session turned out to be very informative and those in attendance left with a newfound understanding of volunteering and the ways they can strategically use the practice to advance their careers.