Last week was National Volunteer Week, a time designated to celebrate and say thanks to the country’s selfless volunteers.
There’s a lot of people to thank. According to Statistics Canada, there are about 12.7 million volunteers, and together, they contribute an estimated two billion hours of their time to a broad spectrum of causes. Take away those contributions and it would leave a noticeable void, one which would mean a lot of programs and events which rely on volunteer help would likely not happen.
The Volunteer Canada websites notes, “the magic of volunteering is that it creates social and economic value for all.”
That statement falls in line with this year’s Volunteer Week theme: “Celebrate the Value of Volunteering — building confidence, competence, connections and community.”
The theme offers a hint as to why so many people — in all age groups — volunteer their time. Volunteering may be an act of giving, but those who do so also receive. In fact, Volunteer Canada points out that many volunteers say they get more than they give.
Volunteers benefit in a variety of ways, including the areas included in the theme statement. They gain confidence and skills, and they establish connections that help them in their own lives. That’s why volunteering is so highly regarded as a way for young people to grow as individuals. But its benefits apply to all, regardless of age.
The notion of volunteering isn’t anything new. It’s been around for a long, long time. Aristotle once offered this view: “What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.”
By serving others, Canada’s volunteers have a significant impact on the economy. In 2013, TD Economics put a dollar figure to the value of volunteer efforts in Canada, estimating that volunteering creates $50 billion in annual economic value for Canadians.
Of course, as Volunteer Canada explains, “counting hours doesn’t show the impact of the volunteer work. And as a result, it gives an incomplete picture of the value of volunteers … Many feel the passion and commitment of volunteers is priceless.”
Canada’s volunteers get that. There are many practical reasons to volunteer — to gain experience, develop skills and create networking opportunities. But many others volunteer just because they enjoy it.
Besides the practical benefits that volunteers gain from their giving, it just makes them feel good. “The unselfish effort to bring cheer to others will be the beginning of a happier life for ourselves,” Helen Keller noted.
Volunteers may be creating happiness for themselves, but in the process, they bring happiness to many others as well.
For that, we thank them.