Empathy helps people relate to one another and creates bonds around common goals and aspirations. This National Volunteer Week, April 24-30, affirms the connection between volunteerism and empathy, which is at the heart of healthier individuals and stronger communities.
United Way British Columbia strengthens vital connections that support people in need in communities across our province through volunteerism. This week we’re featuring volunteers from each of our regions who are working to create healthy, caring, inclusive communities for everyone. They are empathy in action.
Increased well-being – Lower Mainland
Volunteering not only does good, it is good for you! When the COVID pandemic first hit, it was a challenging time for Jose, his wife, Mavi and daughter, Adelaida. After speaking with his doctor, Jose decided to try volunteering and signed on to United Way’s iVolunteer online volunteer portal, which provides local opportunities for getting involved in your community. Jose, along with his helper daughter, Adelaida, delivered food hampers and groceries to Burnaby residents throughout the pandemic.
“Jose was able to help us out when we were in a pinch,” says Cindy Cassidy, Volunteer Coordinator at United Way British Columbia. “His humble nature, his commitment to helping others and his desire to give back to society is commendable.”
Volunteering takes a little bit of time and commitment, but it made a lot of difference to Jose’s outlook on life and that made a difference to his family, according to his wife, Mavi: “He found his sense of purpose again.”
Eight-year-old Adelaida agrees: “When I saw how happy volunteering made my dad feel, it made me happy too.”
Improved mental health is one of volunteering’s greatest benefits.
Emergency response – Fraser Valley
During last November’s catastrophic flooding in the Fraser Valley, Etta immediately responded to a call to help with sandbagging efforts to limit the worst of the flooding at Abbotsford’s Albert Dyck Park. She was among 120 local volunteers who stepped forward with United Way British Columbia to support Fraser Valley residents and businesses during the natural disaster.
“Even though the situation was dire, and the weather was terrible, people were upbeat and in good spirits,” Etta says. “It was so amazing to work side by side with fellow community members.”
Those volunteers’ efforts continue across the Fraser Valley in the Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Sumas Prairie and Yarrow areas with ongoing repair and clean-up activities, as well as supporting impacted local businesses, farmers and residents.
Hi Neighbour Fraser Valley Community Builders work to mobilize volunteers and Community Champions, supporting them with community-based projects that build resilience and strengthen connections through our Local Love Fund microgrants.
Interested in volunteering to support your community? Visit iVolunteer to see opportunities in your area.
Sharing expertise – Thompson Nicola Cariboo
Jagjit began his journey with United Way as a summer co-op student at United Way British Columbia – Thompson Nicola Cariboo region in 2016 helping set up and update an application portal so it was ready for non-profits in the community to apply for funding. This technical step is vital in ensuring agencies can access funds to propel their work serving the community. Jagit continues to share his IT expertise through volunteering. He helps keep the portal up-to-date and provides invaluable support to agency partners with technical questions.
“I had a wonderful experience,” Jagjit says of his co-op term. “Volunteering helps me learn too,” he added. “A lot of the time, there are certain scenarios I would never have thought of until I see the problem. This really does expose me to a lot of challenges users can face, and it helps me at work as well.”
Volunteering time and talents is a terrific way to give back to your community while growing specialized skills.
A helping hand – Southern Interior
Volunteer Simon was on hand to help raise nearly $26,000 at United Way British Columbia Southern Interior Region’s 10th Annual South Okanagan Drive-Thru Breakfast in early March. This record-breaking result was made possible by the generosity of local businesses and community members like Simon, who rallied together to welcome hundreds of cars (including a school bus!) line up to receive a hot breakfast sandwich and special giveaways from participating local businesses.
“Volunteering with United Way is a great fit for me,” Simon says. “Whichever role I am given, it’s not only giving back to community, who welcomed me 28 years ago, but what those bags represent: the whole community pulling together towards a common goal: to help those in need and raising funds to be redistributed for the good and betterment of our home, on this small parcel of the earth we all share.”
The Penticton resident has volunteered with United Way for the past 10 years.
Safe Seniors, Strong Communities – Central & Northern Vancouver Island
Prior to the pandemic, Alison volunteered at Nanaimo schools. When they closed, Alison quickly turned to helping seniors through the Safe Seniors, Strong Communities Initiative. By simply dialing 2-1-1 or filling in an online form at www.bc211.ca, BC seniors 65 and older can request volunteer help with grocery shopping, meal prep and prescription pick-up or receive a friendly check-in call. Alison delivered groceries to seniors throughout the community.
“Everybody needed groceries. Although the stores deliver, at the beginning, you could not get groceries delivered,” she says. “It is very rewarding, [you] do feel like you are actually doing something for these people who can’t do it for themselves, or [whose] relatives [are] far away, [and] can’t help them.”
Since the initiative’s inception in March 2020, almost 14,500 volunteers have provided services to more than 32,000 seniors.
United, we are stronger – British Columbia
Rudy has always found time to give back to his community through his workplace, his church and local community. He has helped raise millions to create more inclusive and equitable communities. He is also often known to say: “You can give your money but giving your time and expertise is important too.” And he has done just that.
Since starting as an Employee Campaign Chair of the annual employee fundraising campaign at Connor Clark and Lunn Private Capital in 1997, he has held many volunteer roles at United Way. Rudy has served as Co-Chair of United Way of the Lower Mainland’s Annual Campaign and is the inaugural Board Chair of United Way British Columbia helping to oversee the amalgamation of six regional United Ways into one organization. Rudy’s empathetic leadership fosters the shared success that strengthens vital connections to support those in need across British Columbia.
Show your local love
Join thousands of British Columbians taking action to make their communities better. Contribute meaningfully to your community in a way that honours your gifts, passion, and abilities. Show your local love. Get involved in your community today. Sign up at ivolunteer.ca.