Growing up, I remember watching my mom and dad getting dressed up in their black and white St. John Ambulance uniforms with their bulging first aid kit in tow before attending an event that required medically trained volunteers.
If my sister and I were lucky, we would be able to come with them as they taught a room full of young cadets. Other times I would watch through the living room window as they left to give their skills and time away, free of charge.
At a young age I thought all adults did that, or at least something similar. Whether I saw parents and grandparents volunteering to make hot lunches at schools or filling in as Brownie and Scouts leaders, it seemed to me that helping out in the community was something done by each adult in the small town I grew up in. However, as I got older and moved into the city, I realized that this just isn’t the case.
Many people struggle to find the time or struggle to find a community organization they can feel comfortable with and can connect to.
This lack of civic involvement and social cohesion is being noticed on a slow but growing scale throughout Canada, and began prior to the unexpected arrival of the pandemic.
Even local non-for-profit boards are struggling to find members willing to fill seats, give input and help make vital decisions. The Lac La Biche Museum is currently operating with a reduced volunteer board, leaving its few employees to make up the slack for positions better suited for engaged community members.
However, I am in no position to point fingers. Since leaving university, the hours I have dedicated to my volunteering sheet has steadily been shrinking each passing year. Even though I enjoy getting out of the house and meeting new people and doing new things, I feel as though I have no time to spare. Although looking back, I find myself parked on the couch most weekday evenings.
I am determined to turn this around, especially considering research has shown that volunteering with a sense of purpose can have drastic health benefits and, of course, benefits to the wider community.
Through volunteerism and by bringing people together from all walks of life, it contributes to increased social cohesion and improved social capital, which improves social trust, reciprocity and sense of belonging in communities, according to research cited in Statics Canada on volunteerism.
Perhaps as we begin to reconnect after the pandemic, we might consider going out and lending a hand to an organization that desperately need extra help with our friends and family.
What would be better than catching up with a loved one while simultaneously supporting a good cause?