It’s impossible to overstate the important role volunteers play in our communities. They shovel our outdoor rinks, coach our kids’ soccer teams and, of course, lead Girl Guide Units. Basically, I think it’s safe to say that volunteers make our world go round.
But if you force someone to volunteer, is it really volunteering? Many provinces, including Ontario and B.C., require high school students to complete a set number of volunteer or community involvement hours in order to graduate. The idea is to encourage students to develop an awareness and understanding of civic responsibility and the role they can play. But if you force someone to volunteer, will their heart be in it? Are they doing it for the ‘ right ‘ reasons?
Maybe it doesn’t matter why teens are volunteering – whether it’s because they have to or because they want to. We definitely don’t want to a generation who’ve been ‘volun-told’ to help out. But ultimately, the goal of these high school volunteer requirements is to turn I have to volunteer into I want to volunteer.
For some high schoolers, these volunteer involvement hours may be their first experience with rolling up their sleeves and lending a hand in their community. If these forced volunteer hours help a young person discover a new career path, feel a new connection to their community (you know, other than texting), then that’s all good to me.
(Bloggy confession – my own family is benefiting from high school volunteerism. A grade 10 student comes over once a week to parlez français with my son while building Lego or playing board games, helping my little Grade 1 guy improve his French conversation skills.)
There are 12.5 million volunteers in Canada, giving some 2.1 billion hours annually to their communities. And when the baby boomers retire from volunteerism, who will take their place? Starting the next generation on a journey to a life-long culture of volunteerism – even if some may need a little nudge – can’t be that bad.
So having said all that, I’m not really sure how I feel about mandatory volunteer hours. What do you think?
By Mary, GGC staff
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