Volunteers make the world go round

– Happy National Volunteer Week!

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12.7 million Canadians volunteer every year in Canada

This week in Canada we are celebrating national volunteer week! What an awesome thing to celebrate! According to Volunteer Canada, 12.7 million Canadians volunteer every year, giving 2 billion hours annually. That means one in three Canadians volunteer every year. Statistics Canada lists it even higher with 47% of Canadians volunteering. Stats like this give me so much hope for the future. As North Americans,  we are incredibly privileged, but stats like this show that we are very aware of our privilege and are actively trying to make a difference, Stats like these show that we care about those who are struggling and want to contribute to the betterment of our communities, our country, and beyond.

Volunteers really do make the world go round. Donating money to a charity is quick and easy (and I highly encourage everyone to put aside funds every year to an organization whose work you believe in) but giving your own time and efforts to a cause is equally valuable.  To get a better look at the impact of volunteerism on the economy, let’s assign it a dollar value. If every volunteer was paid minimum wage per hour, it would have cost the Canadian economy at minimum $20 BILLION a year. And this doesn’t even take into account that a significant amount of the work likely has a higher fair market value, probably between $20-50 per hour. I would also suggest that there is a significant amount of volunteerism that can’t even be measured. Think of people who volunteer for small organizations. Those who are activists and show up to demonstrations. There are so many volunteers who cannot be quantified, because they step up without batting an eye.

Volunteering is a fantastic way to fulfill your passion. While I greatly enjoy the work I do, and am passionate about the organization I work for, my volunteering is definitely where I find my true passion. I love Ag and feel very strongly about the advancement of women in this industry. I believe women have an important role and can have a hugely positive impact on our industry as we move forward together. Working with AWN has definitely allowed me to realize this passion and make a lasting impact.

Through my parent’s fruit farm, I once met a women who had established a not-for-profit farmers market in downtown Windsor. She believe deeply in the positive impact of the market. It added a layer of colour to Saturday mornings downtown,  allowed urbanites to develop a deeper connection with their food, and helped  support the agriculture sector in Essex County. In conversation with her one day, she shared stories of all of the volunteer activities she was doing as well as raising her family −her own version of having it all. She also works in public service, and while describing her life to me, she coined the phrase ‘my work is really getting in the way of my volunteering.’ I often have this thought myself as I sit up late working on volunteer items, counting down the hours of sleep I will get that night. I’m sure many would join me in this sentiment, as they spend hours reading briefs for boards or committees that they volunteer on, or simply getting chores done in time to participate in a walk-a-thon on the weekend. Volunteering is a form of empowerment. It really allows us to have it all. It’s a way to work, support ourselves and our family, and still give back.

“My work is really getting in the way of my volunteering”

I wasn’t able to find stats that indicate what percentage of volunteers were women. However, the people I know who volunteer their time and resources are predominantly women. Volunteering as a part of the AWN Leadership has really helped to demonstrate just how much time the women around me give to the betterment of society. AWN is a grassroots organization and is run exclusively by volunteers. At present, we rely on donations of time, space, food, and money for individual events. Without these donations and these volunteers, we would not exist at all. We wanted to take this week to send out a very special thank you. Whether you have contributed to AWN through volunteering on one of the actions team, writing blogs, attending events, or simply following along on Facebook and Twitter. As with so many other fantastic organizations, we are dependent on YOU, and the time and effort  you give us so graciously.

Stay rad volunteers of the world, and keep fighting the good fight!

-Maureen @greenMreen

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