Vol 'n' tell

The Official Blog of Volunteer Richmond Information Services
  • A Worthwhile Detour: My Strategic Volunteering Experience

    Volunteer blogger Lillian Liao is back! It would've been really hard to top her last story on Strategic Volunteerism (which you should really check out, by the way), but this new blog is about both strategic volunteerism and cats (and some other animals that are not cats). Just when you thought volunteering couldn't get any more exciting ... 

    You know you have to read this blog post now. Because cats.

    Over a cup of coffee on a Saturday afternoon, my friend and I were light-heartedly discussing the contents of our résumés as we prepared to apply for summer jobs. We were both at the beginning of our undergraduate studies and still had a long way to go in building up our professional experiences. Taking a sip of her drink, my friend gleefully joked that her résumé was a catalogue of the best places to get sushi in our city. The delicious summation of her qualifications is a result of working several part-time jobs as a waitress in sushi restaurants throughout high school. Desiring to seek a more permanent position that was actually related to her future field of work, my friend discussed the various possibilities for how she could translate the skills of "sushi waitressing" to fit a different employment appetite.

    Although the contents of my résumé is nowhere near as appetizing as my friend’s, I still faced a similar situation with my own mismatch of past experiences, present interests, and future goals. Whenever I go for job interviews, employers are always puzzled by the sequence of animal-related volunteer work that I have done over the past years. I do not blame them, because judging by my résumé, I appear to be a completely different person. Although now I am student of the humanities, my résumé is a reflection of a time in high school where I thought I might want to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

    Part of my high school graduation requirements was to come up with a five year post-graduation plan which included potential education and career paths. After taking one too many career diagnostic tests, I had narrowed the possible choices down to two. The two choices were polar opposites of one another: writer or veterinarian. The former was something I had dreamt of doing since I was a child. However, caught between the cruxes of suitability and practicality, I began to think seriously about turning my love for animals into a career path.

    Not willing to dive head first into unknown territory, I decided I would slowly dip my feet into the pool of veterinary medicine by volunteering. I began seeking opportunities within the community that would help build on my résumé, but also allow me to explore the field of veterinary medicine to determine if it would be a good fit for me. Back then, I was unaware this type of volunteering had a name - strategic volunteering. My strategic volunteering plans led me to volunteer positions at an animal shelter, the aquarium, and even a veterinary hospital.

    In April of 2010, I began volunteering at the Cat Sanctuary branch of the Richmond Animal Protection Society. For three hours each Saturday morning I helped with the daily cleaning operations of the shelter. A typical volunteering shift included scooping out litter boxes, doing laundry, washing dishes, providing fresh water, and topping off the dry food. For someone who has never done more than the required chores around the house, I was surprised by the amount of physical effort it took to volunteer at the shelter. Needless to say, I was exhausted after each shift - volunteering gave me a good workout!

    Regardless of how physically tasking the actual shift was, the first-hand experience of caring for animals was unparalleled to anything I have ever experienced before. The three hours flew by as I found myself in the company of dozens of cats, whom all had their own quirky personalities. As someone who hadn't previously been around cats very much, volunteering gave me an opportunity to learn about their behaviour. Through casually observing the medical staff at the shelter, I gained insight into the care-taking of sick cats. Without a doubt the most enjoyable part of volunteering at the shelter was the opportunity to spend time with these cats by giving them the love and attention they deserved. I began to enjoy volunteering at the shelter so much that it did not bother me to go home covered in layers of fur.

    Lillian looking prepared to engage with marine biology in her VanAqua volunteer uniform

    My strategic volunteering plans also led me to a volunteer position at the Vancouver Aquarium. After waiting several weeks for recruitment to open, I was dismayed to learn that I would have to go through a long application process which included several interviews before being officially recruited. I prepared for my volunteer interviews as if I was going into a job interview. I read up on the aquarium’s history, their mission statement, their conservation efforts, and current exhibits. On the day of the interview, I was indubitably nervous, but I forced myself to come out of my shell to prove that I would be an efficient worker.

    After being selected, I went on to complete the aquarium’s training program. In the summer of 2011, I finally began volunteering for the aquarium. A typical volunteering shift for me included various activities - face painting, touch pools, as well as arts and crafts. In the beginning, my reserved personality made it difficult to maneuver through the busy Aquarium landscape. But soon enough, I found myself enjoying conversations with others about marine biology. Volunteering at the aquarium was a wonderful experience that furthered my knowledge of marine science and environmental conservation, and it also allowed me to develop communication and presentation skills.

    These two volunteering positions provided me with first-hand insight into what it would be like to work directly and indirectly with animals. Volunteering provided me with the means to become an active participant, rather than a passive observer. Instead of naively trusting the career diagnostic tests, I was able to use my volunteering experiences as a way to gauge how I would enjoy working in the field.

    Although I have fond memories of volunteering, I soon came to the conclusion that the veterinarian field was not suitable for me. As much as I enjoyed learning about animal science, my inherent skills were in the humanities. Even though I love working with animals, my passion for the humanities was and still is unrivaled.

    Now that I am studying literature, some would say that I am back where I began. I beg to differ. My time spent volunteering was never wasted - not on me or on the organization. It is true that the plan of strategic volunteering was what motivated me to seek out these volunteering opportunities, but it was not what kept me volunteering. Volunteering forced me to step outside of my comfort zone and allowed me to feel a connection to my community. And I now have some really great memories to keep me company as I embark on a new path.

    I do not think I have come full-circle, but rather, I believe I am back on track again after taking a very worthwhile detour.

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  • Richmond: Where Film & Media Arts Live

    It used to be that Richmond film buffs were resigned to the fact that film festivals had to be found in Vancouver. These dedicated moviegoers made the arduous trek out of town for the sake of getting in on the art and culture scene. Or that was the case until Cinevolution Media Arts Society came along with their highly-anticipated annual Your Kontinent Film & Media Arts Festival. Eliana Chia (who is also an alumni with our Youth Now program) is a new volunteer with Cinevolution and Your Kontinent, so we asked her what it's like to help establish Richmond as a centre for media arts.

    Growing up in Richmond, I spent many of my teenage years taking the old 98 B-Line into Vancouver whenever I was searching for things to do. I perceived Vancouver as this mecca for art, music, film and theatre, and I was also driven to leave a suburban environment. 

    3 years ago, after a period of travel and studies, I moved back to Richmond. But before diving back into the progressive arts scene in Vancouver, I began to wonder, why can’t we have this in Richmond?

    As it turns out, there was already an amazing group of people working on just that in our city. I stumbled across Cinevolution and after the first few minutes of reading about what they were working for, I was incredibly excited and knew that I wanted to be a part of it! For those of you who have never heard of Cinevolution, they are a completely volunteer-run organization that uses film and media arts to engage communities in connecting cultures, challenging convention, and inspiring creativity.

    I was tired of always looking outside of my city for creative and innovative spaces, and I knew that I wanted to begin creating those spaces right in my community. Now, I volunteer as the Community Outreach Coordinator for Cinevolution and am knee-deep in organizing for the 2014 Your Kontinent Film & Media Arts Festival that is coming up this month. This is a festival about provoking discussions around how technology has impacted our everyday lives, which is something that we can all relate to. This festival is also bringing a drive-in movie theatre, restaurant film screenings, roving theatre performances, media art workshops, a live music carnival night, and so much more - right into Richmond.

    This July, you don’t need to rely on long trips to downtown because there are incredible events happening in our city. My experience in Cinevolution has taught me that you need to create the spaces that you want to be in right where you are. I’m truly proud of what we have been able to put together and can’t wait to share it with others!

    For more information about Cinevolution Media Arts Society, please visit: www.cinevolutionmedia.com. For more information about the 2014 Your Kontinent Film & Media Arts Festival, please visit: http://ykfestival.ca.

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  • Gaining New Twitter Followers

    Our long-time volunteer blogger Ray Wang also happens to be a digital marketing expert in his alternate life. As such, we thought it was about time we bring his twitter know-how to you in our latest blog post.

    Image source: Wikimedia Commons

    Want to gain more Twitter followers? Here are three tactics you can use:

    1. Monitor relevant hashtags

    According to Twitter, “Hashtags, or the # symbol, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages.” 

    An example of a hashtag would be #volunteerism or #philanthropy. Any word or phrase (such as #leadershiptraining) can be made into a hashtag by typing “#” in front. Clicking on a hashtag allows you to view tweets which have that hashtag included in its message – think of it as a keyword search function.

    You can monitor relevant hashtags to find individuals who are involved in the non-profit sector. Nonprofit-related hashtags include #gooddeed#volunteerism, or #nonprofit (this is by no means an exhaustive list – new hashtags are being used all the time). Engaging with those who are already contributing to discussions on relevant hashtags can help attract attention from potential followers.

    Tagboard is a hashtag monitoring platform which lets you search for specific hashtags across different social media channels. All you have to do is type in your chosen hashtag and Tagboard will generate the results for you (for more on Tagboard, see: How We Improved Our Social Media Performance with These 3 Tools).

    2. Interact with other non-profit organization’s Twitter followers

    Interacting with the followers of other similar nonprofits can help you attract the attention of users who are more likely to become interested in your organization, since these individuals are likely already active in the non-profit community. Look for appropriate opportunities to join in on already-existing conversations (which you can find using hashtags). You can also simply start by following relevant users. This can attract their attention and spark their interest in learning more about your organization.

    For example, if there is a user that frequently tweets about upcoming community events in your city, you can tweet at them about your nonprofit’s own upcoming events. They may then choose to share that information with their own social media networks. Or, if you are nonprofit that engages with volunteers (such as @VolunteerRmd), you can look at the follower list of similar organizations (such as @VolunteerCanada) and follow users who tweet on topics relevant to your field. Targeting the right users’ increases the chances of acquiring new followers. 

    ScraperWiki and HootSuite are two great tools that can facilitate interaction with other nonprofits’ followers. ScraperWiki is a data extraction tool which lets you download lists of other Twitter accounts’ followers. For example, you can use ScraperWiki to download a list of YWCA Metro Vancouver’s followers (@YWCAVAN). All you have to do is enter the organization's "Twitter handle" (another word for "username") in the search box and ScraperWiki will generate a spreadsheet of the account’s followers.

    HootSuite is a social media dashboard which lets you see streams of real-time tweets. You can use Hootsuite to monitor what Twitter users are saying online and find opportunities to engage with them. 

    ScraperWiki and HootSuite can even be used concurrently to make it easier to find and interact with other organizations’ followers. Here’s how:

    1. Use ScraperWiki to download lists of other non-profits’ followers.
    2. Create a Twitter list for the extracted lists. (Go to Settings and help on the top right-hand side of your Twitter account and click on lists.)
    3. Add the Twitter Lists to HootSuite Stream.
    4. Monitor conversations and find opportunities to interact with prospective followers.

    3. Guest blog on publications for the non-profit sector

    When you contribute content to other nonprofit blogs, you can include your Twitter handle, website URL, or other company information in your author bio. Guest blogging showcases your organization and your organization’s expertise to others in the non-profit community. The information in your author bio gives readers an opportunity to visit your website, learn about your organization, develop interest, and follow your Twitter account to keep up with your latest news. 

    Here are examples of popular publications on the non-profit industry that may take submissions:

    Of course, you should also research and pitch blog post ideas to blogs that are relevant to your specific field.

    The three approaches above can help you engage with target users and to attract them to your twitter account. You’ll notice that regardless of the tactic or tool, the common strategy in all the above tips is to engage, engage, and engage! You cannot get new twitter followers unless you are putting your organization out there. The point of social media is to be - well, social.

    If there are other Twitter follower acquisition techniques you want to share, tweet and let us know!

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  • All Smiles on the Greens

    We've already met Andrew Lai, the summer student from our Seniors Community Support Services department. Now we have the pleasure of introducing to you also to Tina Deng, the summer student from our Volunteer Centre! Last month, on May 29, 2014 we were fortunate to have Tina's help at the Richmond Community Foundation's Annual Golf Tournament. Here's Tina herself with a run-down of the event.

    Tina Deng (left) with other members of the Golf Tournament volunteer crew

    I recently had the pleasure of attending the Richmond Community Foundation’s 21st Annual Golf Tournament at Quilchena Golf & Country Club. To be honest, I didn’t know much about the event itself or the organization before signing up. I certainly did not know that Tourism Richmond, through the Tourism Richmond Endowment Fund, was going to award the fund’s first grant at the event.

    And of course – seeing how it is Richmond – it all started on a rainy day.

    Despite The Weather Network’s pessimistic reports, everyone in the office had been hoping that it wouldn’t rain on the day of the tournament, to no avail. But spirits were not dampened by the weather. We all headed to the Quilchena Golf & Country Club around 10:00am to set up before the golfers arrived.

    First, Sydney and I stopped at Kam Do Bakery. As one of our sponsors, Kam Do Bakery was offering a box of Chinese pastries – their famous wintermelon cake included – to each participant as part of the gift package. How my mouth watered at the thought of these sweets! But there was work to be done. Following the pick-up, we quickly drove to the golf course and started set up and making the gift packages.

    Soon enough, golfers started trickling in and I moved on to my next task for the day: the putting contest. With the help of two other volunteers, I was in charge of asking people to participate in a 50/50 Putting Contest in which 50% of the proceeds would go to the Richmond Community Foundation and the other 50% to the winner of a draw. There was a small condition: the participant, who had a choice of buying either 1 putt for $5 or 4 putts for $10, had to first get a ball into the hole to be entered into the draw. Having only played golf at the driving range before, it was a challenge for me and the other volunteer to decide where to set up the starting point for putters (it probably wouldn’t have worked to let the participants decide for themselves!). Unfortunately, by this time, the rain was picking up speed. The sun was nowhere in sight and no one seemed interested in the putting green. Luckily, once the tournament officially started, the putting green got more and more traction. Even the clouds were starting to clear out, although it was still a little windy. As the day went on, more and more people participated and we were able to raise $400 dollars just from the putting green.

    Once the golfers had finished and seated themselves in the dining room, I received a new task – selling raffle tickets for the lottery draw at the end of the night. With the help of Richmond councilwoman Linda McPhail and other volunteers, we successfully sold $2,040 worth of raffle tickets. Then we had a sake barrel opening ceremony and I even got to experience a real live auction with the auctioneer spouting out words at lightning speed. As the prizes grew more extravagant, the crowd also became more and more rambunctious and everyone clapped along as additional prizes were added to give incentives to bidders. It was all a little surreal.

    Rain rain stay away - because our golfers aren't going to! 

    Seeing local businesses come out to support the Richmond Community Foundation was certainly a unique experience. Organizations such as the Richmond Community Foundation cannot exist without the help of volunteers who generously contribute their time and efforts. Annual events such as the Golf Tournament also help to raise money for both the Foundation and its grant recipients (thanks to the generosity of donors, the recipient of Tourism Richmond’s new award, Ramon Ramirez, is going to become an adventure tour guide operator). Some people are able to give time; others, their sponsorship and donations. Both are absolutely necessary to keep the Foundation running.

    Although the day started out a little rainy, everything turned out great in the end. It’s so rewarding, especially as a long-time resident of Richmond, to witness local organizations and businesses coming together to help the community. It was all smiles on the golf greens.

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  • Andrew Lai: My Summer at Volunteer Richmond

    For the first time ever, we've had the pleasure of welcoming a summer student to our Seniors Community Support Services department. We'll leave it to Program Assistant Andrew Lai himself to give you an idea of what he's been up to!

    Andrew Lai (right) with Program Assistant Eric Chow (left)

    and Better at Home Coordinator Peggy Lai (centre)

    My name is Andrew and I am a fourth year UBC student majoring in Psychology and minoring in Sociology. Through my studies, I have developed a passion for learning how different people and demographics think, act, and behave. Although I have volunteered with children and have worked side-by-side with youth and adults alike, I have yet to experience working with the senior community. Fortunately, Volunteer Richmond has provided me with the perfect opportunity to do just that, as I am currently a program assistant in the Seniors Community Support Services (SCSS).

    SCSS includes both the Volunteer Shopping (Shop-by-Phone, Group Shopping) and Better At Home (Transportation, Friendly Visitor, and Light Housekeeping) programs. Through this position, I am beginning to learn and understand the multitude of services available to the senior population, and how each service works to assist seniors in their everyday lives. The best part about the job is having the freedom to socialize with senior clients and volunteers, which creates a lively and welcoming environment. Our senior clients are incredibly sociable and friendly people who willingly share their wisdom and experiences. Being involved in these programs has been a great learning experience for me. Every day I look forward to helping Richmond’s seniors through the Senior Community Support Services!

    My role at Volunteer Richmond is showing me just how important providing these services is to the emotional, mental and physical health of seniors in Richmond. This position has definitely opened my eyes to the little things in life that many of us take for granted: transportation, grocery shopping, cleaning, or friendly interaction. These little things contribute immensely to overall health and well-being, but losing these privileges means that seniors are at a disadvantage. Every day I can see the positive impact that our programs have on Richmond’s senior population.

    As a Psychology and Sociology student, I excited to have this opportunity to learn first-hand about Richmond’s senior community. I know that as I continue my studies at UBC, I will definitely draw from my experiences here (maybe I will be able to share my stories of SCSS!) in order to enrich my overall learning.

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  • Child Care Provider Profile: Gentle Steps Child Care

    Fueled by a knack for working with children, Sonia Dhudwal continues to take her business to new heights. In this edition of our Child Care Provider series, Sonia discusses how to keep your children engaged and your employees happy. It's all about balance in the ECE world!

    A young team of archaeologists get to work on their latest dig.

    What made you want to become a child care provider?

    After my sister had her son, people often told me that I had a natural way with kids. I started volunteering at camps and at his preschool, and realized that I really enjoyed being around young children and helping them during these very important years. I then applied for the ECE program at Langara College in 2005 and have since been working full-time in a child care setting.

    What’s your favourite part of operating a child care facility and your least favourite?

    I would say my favourite part is that I can operate the center practicing my philosophies & views. I can provide high quality care that is affordable for families in Richmond while giving children a nurturing environment in which they can grow and develop.

    My least favourite part of operating a facility is the stress that goes with it, especially when I need to work with the city, fire and licensing and keep each one happy.

    How do you promote your business?

    I rely solely on word of mouth and it has worked very well for me over the past several years. Parents find comfort in a referral, especially when it comes from an individual vouching for you. It’s a great honour and I appreciate each and every referral I receive. Without them I do not believe I would be where I am today.

    What does professionalism mean to you?

    To me it means conducting yourself in a respectful manner with not only your clients, but with the children enrolled and staff as well. I often use the phrase “practice what you preach” and I do believe in this saying. 

    What challenges do you face as a child care provider? How do you overcome them?

    Staffing is a huge challenge in this field. I try to ensure my employees are happy, enjoy their work and know they are an important part of the facility. Although it is a tiring and exhausting field to be in, small gestures help, such as bringing them coffee, buying lunch for no specific reason, or listening to their concerns or input.

    Another challenge is keeping the fees down and affordable for families while still being able to pay a good wage to staff. I try my best to keep operating cost down and do a lot of the work myself, such as fixing things around the center, pay roll etc, but it would definitely help private operators to get some additional assistance from the government. I would love for minimum wage for child care providers with the appropriate credentials to be $20/hr. 

    This lush back yard looks comfortable enough to take a nap on!

    What do you find parents are looking for most in a child care provider?

    They want to see providers who are excited about their job, and are loving and nurturing to their child regardless of their age group. They also look for providers who understand that each child is unique and that their needs are different.

    What’s your favourite activity to do with children?

    There are so many its hard to choose just one. We love circle time as it can go as short as 10 minutes to children wanting songs & stories for 40 minutes and longer. We also love spontaneous activities, which allow both the teachers and children to learn something new. Art can also be fun and creative and one of my favourite things to see is children using their imagination to come up with new ideas for the group.

    Do you keep in contact with other child care providers? Would you say there is a cohesive child care community in Richmond?

    I do try to keep in contact with other providers; however, we are all so busy that it can be difficult. I do know that I have been referred by other centers and vice versa if we are unable to accommodate a family in our facility. I would say we stick together as we need to be advocates for one another and child care in general.

    Are there any services not available in Richmond that you think child care providers and/or parents would benefit from?

    Hard to say as there are many services; however, accessibility may be the difficult part.

    Do you have any advice for people new to the child care field?

    Be open to feedback & learning. Regardless of how many years we have been in the field we are always learning, whether it’s from a workshop, a course, our co-workers, or even the children at our center. The other thing I always tell staff is to treat the children how you would want your children to be treated. We are in their life during the most critical time of their developing years and we need to make sure we have their best interest at heart.

    Also do not be afraid to say you need to take a break. Whether it’s a day off to yourself or a few minutes off the floor. It can be overwhelming and we all have our limits, but we need to know when to step back and take a few deep breaths. 

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  • Non-Profit Video Picks: May 2014

    Broadly speaking, this blog post by volunteer writer Ray Wang encompasses so many of the elements that are necessary to achieve social change. The first video's message is simple - innovation and technology can be one of the tools we use to make a difference in the lives of those in need. The second video reminds us why social change is necessary - because oftentimes we are fighting for those who are disadvantaged through none of their own fault. Nobody ever wants to see the words "sick" and "child" in any sentence together. The third video tackles a much more difficult issue - that social change often has to start within ourselves. Making the world a better place shouldn't just be something that happens "out there" - we need to challenge our own assumptions and beliefs and understand our roles and privileges within society in order to truly understand an issue. Only then can we go beyond scratching at the surface of issues and start making a real difference. 

    Drones to the rescue

    Drones are not just a transportation tool for delivering Amazon packages or Domino’s Pizza 

    – they can also be live-saving vehicles. With a little bit of innovation and creativity, Pia Zaragoza, a New York University Master’s student studying Interactive Telecommunications, plans to use drones to deliver humanitarian goods, transport blood tests, and provide connectivity to remote areas. While the drone is still in its testing stages, the technology’s potential to impact countless lives is enormous.

    One child with cancer is one too many

    According to the Canadian Cancer Society, there were over 1,465 new cases of childhood leukemia between 2006 and 2010. This means that over 1,465 families were torn apart due to this lethal disease. No child should have to live with cancer. To help the Canadian Cancer Society put an end to childhood leukemia, get involved today!

    F*** the Poor?

    200,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year, according to the Canadian Homelessness Research Network. While social groups such as YWCA Metro Vancouver and BC Poverty Reduction are trying to improve this situation, poverty is still on the rise, as over four million people, including 922,000 children and their families, are still living in poverty. Although it’s unlikely to eradicate poverty in Canada or rest of the world in the next few years, the least we can do is to offer financial support or food to those in need. If you want to get involved, please visit the Richmond Food Bank Society.

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  • The Wide World of Volunteerism: May 2014

    There's a lot of bad news in the world, but this blog post is about some of the good. In this edition of the Wide World of Volunteerism, blogger Ray Wang gives us our daily inspiration with stories on youth compassion and courage, social entrepreneurship prioritizing people over profits, and a heartening jump in the global life expectancy.

    Random Acts of Kindness: 5 Ultra-Nice Things Kids Have Done for One Another

    Jessica's classmates defended her right to wear a tuxedo in her graduation photos. Photo source: Take Part

    Kids can be cruel – but they can also be extremely kind, compassionate, and courageous. The youngsters featured in this article stood up against discrimination, raised funds to build a new home for a physically disabled friend, and helped put out a blazing house. If these youth are any indication, it seems like the future is in good hands.

    5 Insights From Social Entrepreneurs On How Business Can Lift People Out Of Poverty

    Image source: Fast Coexist

    Businesses really can help alleviate the effects of poverty – but it might not be the kind of business we’re used to seeing. This kind of “social entrepreneurship” – businesses focused on “social profit” rather than monetary gain – can be difficult due to a lack of funding, support, and sometimes, determination. To help social entrepreneurs push forward, Mark Cheng of Ashoka UK, a global network of social enterprises, has put together five tips for social entrepreneurs – it might completely change the way you understand business!

    Global Life Expectancy Rises, But Regional Differences Remain

    Image source: Mashable 

    The global life expectancy is now 70 years of age - compared to 64 in 1990. The global average for women is 73 years; for men, 68 years. While the increase in life expectancy is phenomenal, it’s also important to note that certain regions still have low life spans. Sierra Leone for example, only has a life expectancy at 46 years. Compare this to Japan or Iceland that has an average life span of over 80 years. In order for the global life expectancy to continually increase, we need to increase access to medical support and nutritious food, as well as address global conflict.

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  • When should I delete my account?

    Last March, our Youth Now leaders participated in a workshop on how to optimize the use of social media to promote and educate others about the work of their non-profit. The audience had a lot of great questions, particularly around when it is appropriate to delete a social media account, and if it is necessary to do so when the social media account has become stale and outdated. Workshop presenter and Volunteer Richmond Program Assistant Alex Tse decided to respond with this follow up.

    If you have social media accounts representing your nonprofit online, it's a really good idea to keep it updated. And by "updated" I mean at least weekly posts, at the bare minimum. If I'm browsing your social media page and the last post happened a few months ago, that makes your organization look outdated and sloppy. It looks like either you don't care about social media or you don't know how to use it.

    Conversely, a well-run social media account can make your nonprofit look up-to-date, "in the know", and media savvy - and that's on top of promoting the work of your organization. It's pretty clear which camp you want to be in, right?

    There are social media experts out there who absolutely insist that outdated accounts should be immediately deleted. I agree with them that having stale accounts online are harmful to your brand image, but I can’t think of a reason why we have to guillotine the whole project and resort to deleting the account - unless the organization itself no longer exists. Even if a stale account is lacking in frequent updates, I don’t think that it warrants termination. A stale account doesn't necessarily make your organization look irredeemable – visitors to your social media page will just surmise that the page is no longer being updated and that they won’t take the time to visit again. 

    There are a few benefits to keeping a stale account, even if it’s not maintained:

    1. You can keep the account for archival purposes, since you would have put in time writing and posting social media content on the page. 

    2. If you keep the account, it provides an avenue for people to contact you through, since some people prefer contact through social media. That means even if your facebook page is no longer being updated, people can still try to send you messages through facebook if they prefer that to email. 

    3. If you keep the account, there’s every possibility that you could have time in the future to start updating it again. 

    4. If you delete the account, you could lose your username or someone else could snatch it up.

    5. All social media accounts have “About” sections that include your agency mission and website. So even a stale account can be a launchpad for referring people back to your website

    In short, it's not good to have an outdated account, so it's best not to get there in the first place. In order to avoid this scenario altogether, ask yourself these questions before you open a new social media account on behalf of your organization: Do I know how to do this? Do I have the time to do this? Does my nonprofit care about this project, and will it provide support?

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  • Strategic Volunteering: A new spin on volunteerism

    We are so happy to introduce Lillian Liao, our newest volunteer writer. Between juggling a workload from her UBC undergraduate studies in English and Philosophy, Lillian will be bringing you stories about youth volunteerism in Richmond. Her debut story on this blog features a topic that will be familiar to many young adults - how to volunteer to get ahead, or "strategic volunteering".

    Under the big umbrella of volunteering are many different opportunities that can be tailored to fit one’s interests, skill sets, and goals. One might choose to volunteer for various different reasons: to make new friends, gain new skills, or to simply devote time and energy to a cherished cause. Arising from these traditional reasons of volunteering is a new and innovative form of volunteerism: strategic volunteering

    Strategic volunteering is a fairly new term with a somewhat ambivalent definition. According to Volunteer Victoria, strategic volunteers purposely seek out and tailor volunteering opportunities to help them develop certain skills or relevant experiences that they may need to accomplish a specific goal, such as acquiring a job in a specific field of work. 

    In an age where it is the norm for people to go through several careers in a lifetime, strategic volunteering is a good way to ensure that one develops a multitude of skills that can be easily transferred from one career to another. Similarly, more and more universities are shifting to a holistic admission process which highlights the applicant’s volunteer and work experiences as well as their academic strengths. It is no surprise that strategic volunteering has become a growing trend among young students.

    Iris Chau, Kwantlen fashion marketing student

    Iris Chau, a fashion marketing student at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, is planning on pursuing a career in the fashion industry. An assertive and ambitious student, Iris allocates a large portion of her student life to volunteering within the community. She has been an active volunteer since her early youth, and upon entering post-secondary education, Iris began tailoring her volunteer work to align with her future career goals.

    Since December, Iris has been a volunteer mentor for the Simon Fraser University’s Enactus Banner Bags program. Banner Bags is a student-run organization that aims to combine fashion innovation with sustainable living. As a volunteer mentor, Iris guides high school students through a year-long journey in designing and constructing garments from old city banners. This position not only allows Iris to acquire new skills in fashion design, but also to strengthen her passion for the industry.

    “Being able to guide and help students was the most enjoyable part of volunteering. I got to experience their learning process along with them and see their passion grow as fashion students,” Iris says. 

    Besides being a volunteer mentor, Iris also frequently devotes her time to volunteering at fashion events in Vancouver. As a volunteer, she is often asked to undertake a variety of tasks - setting up the venue, welcoming and checking in guests, performing coat and bag checks, and directing people where to sit. In offering her time and energy to these events, Iris gains the opportunity to further her knowledge about the industry, learn about media consultation, and gain experience in professional conduct. Volunteering for these fashion events has also given Iris the prized opportunity of networking.

    “The fashion industry is a tough market to break into. With the added fact that most internships are unpaid, volunteering is a good way to get your foot in the door. There is a possibility that you could bump into your future employer at a volunteer event - volunteering might turn into a job one day,” Iris explains.

    Similarly, Belinda Yee, an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia, has also participated in strategic volunteering. She seeks out volunteering opportunities that will help her achieve her goal of pursuing a career in health sciences. An active volunteer in the community, Belinda started her volunteer career during high school as the president of the school’s first aid team - the First Responders. Belinda’s role as president was to organize the other volunteers in the club by assigning shifts. The First Responders team also provided first aid coverage for various school and community events, such as the Tall Ships festival. Through her volunteer work, Belinda gained valuable experience in how to communicate effectively in emergency situations, which is sure to be an asset in her future medical-related pursuits.

    “When I go to interviews now, the employer is always curious about my past involvement with First Responders. I believe that my volunteer work will be able to help me acquire future positions in the medical field,” Belinda explains.

    Recently, Belinda began volunteering at a senior home. Her role is to visit seniors once a week and provide social companionship. This new volunteer position is particularly intriguing to Belinda as she will be able to turn her academic studies into practical experience. This past semester, Belinda was enthralled by a course involving neurology, and is now excited to provide emotional support for seniors struggling with neurological disabilities. 

    Belinda stresses the importance of volunteering as a stepping stone to future academic and practical pursuits. “It is almost expected that applicants have volunteer experience within the medical field. If you do end up pursuing professional or graduate studies, volunteering gives you an opportunity to know what you will be getting yourself into,” Belinda says. 

    For those wishing to embark on their own strategic volunteering journeys, Belinda and Iris have some sound advice:

    “Don’t be picky. Try to stay open-minded and assertive. You can do your own research on what opportunities are out there. If nothing fits what you are looking for, try to create your own volunteering position,” Iris says.

    “Just go for it, don’t be scared to do it. The most important thing is that you take initiative in finding volunteer opportunities,” Belinda advises.

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