Every year since earning the title of volunteer coordinator, I get excited knowing I will have the opportunity to honour and celebrate the greatest group of people to work alongside. This year is no exception.

National Volunteer Week right across Canada is April 24 – 30. This year’s theme is “Volunteering is Empathy in Action”, and no better words describe what I see everyday in my job. The Cambridge Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.” In my volunteer program, I have adults of all ages and all different backgrounds living across the province, but the one thing they all have in common is their desire to make a difference in the lives of Albertans.

Volunteer Canada writes “Volunteering can help us develop empathy, to see the world through the eyes of others. It can connect people from diverse backgrounds and life experiences, expanding our views. It can build our capacity to work collectively and contribute to a vibrant, inclusive society.”

But there’s more. The Conference Board of Canada produced a document in 2018 titled The Value of Volunteering in Canada. For anyone who has spent time volunteering, maybe you wouldn’t be shocked to read that almost 44% of all Canadians over the age of 15 volunteer. That’s over 13,000,000 teens, adults and seniors spending at least part of their free time giving back to the communities where they live. To translate that staggering number to a dollar value, almost $56 billion a year benefits the economy.  That’s the equivalent of 1.2 million jobs!

If I were to ask a person why they volunteer, I suspect their answer wouldn’t be because they wanted to contribute to the economy. Instead, I’m likely to hear reasons like wanting to make a positive contribution to their community, it makes them feel good thereby improving their mental health, it gives a sense of purpose (especially for those who have recently retired), or maybe because it helps with future job prospects. Whatever their motivation, the Canadians who are touched by the care, compassion, and empathy in action by volunteers stretch from coast to coast.

Whether it is driving seniors to appointments, or socializing with dogs at the local humane shelter, everyone who chooses to volunteer can find a cause they believe in.  Not only does it help the causes they support, but they’ll likely live a healthier, happier life at the same time!

Betty George is AHPCA’s volunteer coordinator for the You’re Not Alone – Grief Connection program

Interested in becoming healthier and happier by volunteering? Check out AHPCA’s volunteer opportunities!

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