Home Employment National Volunteering Week: A guide for newcomers who want to volunteer in Canada

National Volunteering Week: A guide for newcomers who want to volunteer in Canada

National Volunteering Week: A guide for newcomers who want to volunteer in Canada

As a new arrival to Canada, you have probably heard your fellow immigrants advising you to take up volunteer roles as part of your job search. This might sound strange to some, but it’s worth noting that a considerable number of newcomers who volunteer in Canada end up unlocking their first job opportunities in Canada through it.

Volunteering has taught newcomers many skills and has enabled them to build a network that enabled them to build their lives in their new home. Every year in Canada, National Volunteer Week is celebrated (this year, it’s April 14 to April 20, 2024) to recognize and praise the incredible volunteers across the country who selflessly dedicate their time and talents to make a difference in their communities.

Feeling inspired to volunteer? This article will assist you in terms of how and where you can volunteer, as well as the dos and don’ts you need to observe while volunteering. 

What are the main reasons for volunteering?

According to Volunteer Canada, which acts as the national voice and leadership body for volunteerism, there are eight main reasons for both newcomers and Canadian-born individuals to take up volunteering activities:

  • To contribute to the community
  • To use your skills and experience and develop them in a Canadian context
  • To explore and identify one’s strengths
  • Volunteering because you are personally affected by the cause championed by an organization
  • To build a network and meet new people
  • To join your friends at an organization at which they volunteer
  • To fulfill a religious or spiritual obligation or belief
  • To expand, search for and improve job opportunities

Communities benefit immensely from the talents, skills, and perspectives of volunteers, who often improve the quality of life of the members who live within them. As newcomers who volunteer in Canada, you are addressing community issues and needs and can join others in creating more inclusive communities through engagement and participation: foundations that form the bedrock of our country’s multicultural societies. 

Also read: Komal on how networking and volunteering helped her find a job in Canada

Where can you volunteer?

Most community and customer-facing organizations require volunteers regularly. Newcomers who volunteer in Canada can offer their services wherever needed, with many choosing to work with agencies that raise awareness of projects about which they are passionate. 

Volunteerism could range from a family helping clean up a neighbourhood as part of efforts organized by an environmental agency; taking part in polls to share perspectives around cultural understanding; volunteering to translate documents for newcomers who may not have a good grasp of English or French; distributing food at a food bank or a place of worship; offering services at a long term care facility, clinic, or hospital; or aiding efforts to help the underprivileged. 

Organizations that actively seek newcomers who volunteer in Canada also make efforts to make work more conducive. Many adopt supportive practices to bring the best out of both volunteers and the communities they serve. As a newcomer volunteer, for example, you could be matched with someone more experienced to receive orientation and training and can undergo language fluency assessments to see what tasks you are best suited for. As you continue to volunteer, you could be involved in core services and leadership opportunities. 

According to Volunteers Canada, immigrants are more likely to volunteer in religious organizations, arts and culture, international organizations, and healthcare facilities. Canadian-born people, however, choose social services, sports and recreation, education and research, and health-related causes. 

How can newcomers who want to volunteer in Canada sign up for roles?

Ask around your neighbourhood, your family and friends, go to volunteer centres and settlement agencies, inquire with educational institutions, and conduct research online to expand your search. Once you’ve found roles, make sure to contact the organization either via phone, email or in person. Or, you can explore roles and positions on platforms such as Charity Village and Go Volunteer.

You will likely be asked to fill in a volunteer application form, provide a resume, and/or submit a background check, especially when you’re working with youth, the elderly, or disadvantaged populations. You will also be asked to come in for a volunteer interview, ahead of which you need to research the organization and keep in mind the skills you can provide them. 

Also read: Optimize your career success in Canada with networking, mentoring, and volunteering

Dos and don’ts for volunteers

Volunteering may be unpaid work, but there are still some dos and don’ts that newcomers who volunteer in Canada are expected to follow.

Do: 

  • Ask questions – collect information and show you are interested in the role for the long term…you never know where you may end up!
  • Show up on time – it shows you are willing and ready to work. 
  • Do your best – push yourself to do the best you can… it’s okay to make mistakes, but they help you grow as a person
  • Treat people respectfully – create a positive environment where you treat everyone the way you would want to be treated

Don’t: 

  • Get distracted – stay off your devices and do not check your phone, social media, etc. too often when volunteering. 
  • Overcommit – as a newcomer, you might have other responsibilities that take priority – understand how much time and energy you can commit
  • Risk your safety – do not work for an organization that does not value its people’s safety and security. You have the right to refuse a task if you do not feel safe doing it

We hope you found this article useful. Share it with your friends, too! Also, while you’re on our website, check out the other articles we have that offer advice to newcomers in Canada. 

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