National Volunteer Week: Three ways to give back

This week marks the 11th anniversary of National Volunteer Week and my fellow blog writers have dedicated a collaboration post to it. So if you’re interested to hear about how they’ve contributed…click here! This post will talk about my volunteer story. Kind of. Abby

To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of volunteering. The only volunteer experience I have is from the 40 hours of community service I needed to graduate high school, which I completed at a Mandarin language school. I wasn’t doing anything particularly inspirational or noteworthy. I was a task worker. I made photocopies and handed out work sheets to teachers and students. I looked after the students during recess and made sure to clean up the cafeteria afterwards. Simple stuff.

In all the four years I was there, I never could communicate with the teachers properly. They spoke Mandarin and very poor English. Me? English and Cantonese. Despite the language barrier, there was always this one emotion we could convey to each other perfectly: Gratitude. I think that’s one of the things we tend to forget. That a small act of kindness can put a smile on someone’s face or make their day. This act can take any shape – like a “Good morning” to a stranger or holding a door open for someone.

Just because it’s National Volunteer Week doesn’t mean you have to volunteer. Sometimes it’s about doing your part to make the world a better place (as cheesy as that sounds) and you can do that whenever.

Today is the fifth day of National Volunteer Week and to honour and celebrate this awareness period, I want to focus on helping the less fortunate – like giving to the homeless. It doesn’t have to be much. Change from your morning or afternoon coffee will do because a small amount can go a long way (so cliché but seriously).

Yes, there is always the fear of giving money to a homeless person and them not necessarily putting it to the best use. Still, there are numerous places that you can support financially that will benefit the homeless people in Toronto.

Donate funds:

Covenant House Toronto is Canada’s largest homeless youth agency located in the city. These homeless youths range from 16 to 24-year-olds. They may be my age, they may be yours.


From clothing to food to school supplies to gift cards, Covenant House welcomes a variety of items for donation! To see the complete list of possible items you can give, click here. If you don’t have any spare items or can’t afford to make a financial contribution, then you can donate a tweet! Mm-hmm. A tweet. Just log in via Twitter through this site and voila! Covenant House Toronto will tweet on your account once a day. Spreading awareness through social media also counts.

Donate time:

For those of you who’d rather volunteer and participate in something more hands-on (and I know exams are coming up for some of us but you can consider helping out after), fill out this application form here! Covenant House requires availability according to the schedules of the homeless youth as well as the completion of a four-part online training module.


Do something you want to do:

For the people out there who prefer to do things on their own terms – while still making a difference – here are some ideas:

  • Host a clothing drive! Encourage all your friends to sort out the winter clothes they aren’t going to wear anymore and to give them to you (you can give it to an organization of your choice). Not only will this help your friends get rid of clutter and welcome spring, but it will also help people who currently aren’t able to afford new clothes. For the record, the Salvation Army and Goodwill are always looking for clothes.
  • Host a fundraiser for a social service charity of your choice. Benefit concerts, pub nights, manicure/pedicure parties, 5 km walks, movie nights…The list is endless! Not only will hosting a fundraiser put some event experience under your belt, it will also be an opportunity to have an amazing time while supporting an awesome cause.
  • Easter is around the corner. Whether you celebrate or not, you can host a food drive for those less fortunate and encourage your friends, family members, classmates and coworkers to help fill a container with good, nutritious food for the long weekend ahead.

Remember: Gratitude: 

The City of Toronto says, on average, 4,000 emergency beds are used by night each year. The City also says they are planning to fund over $467 million for just social housing alone in 2014.

If the City of Toronto is taking the responsibility to care of its citizens, then shouldn’t we, as the people in Toronto, do the same for those around us?

Giving back to the community means helping the people in it. Even if you haven’t contributed much to the community by volunteering (like me), you can still give back by helping those in need around you.

Remember: Gratitude. We will never know what that stranger we met earlier today is struggling with. Showing appreciation or a small act of kindness is what that someone may need to last the day. You have the power to be that generous.

In what ways have you given back this year?


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