Photo by Chung Chow
There may be no more selfless, or rewarding, act than volunteering.
Canadians, apparently, are well aware of this, with fully half of the population taking advantage of the opportunity. It’s also an experience those at the Richmond’s Thompson Community Centre are trumpeting as they look specifically to fill positions on their board and committees.
“It’s all about attracting good people,” says Thompson Community Association president Julie Halfnights. “Not everybody is the right fit. You need to be ready, willing and able to be represent the community which might not look like you. It might look like younger people or people of different cultures. And it’s a working board, so you have to be willing to dedicate a few hours a week, because regardless of what your role is, we hope you’ll also sit on a committee and head it by your second third of third year.”
A longtime community volunteer, in various capacities, Halfnights says sitting on any one of Thompson’s 11 committees is a chance to learn more about, and make a difference, in your community.
“For example if you have an interest in fitness and you think you know what others want, you can have some influence in the decision-making,” she explains.
Community development co-ordinator Sharlene Singh, who initially joined the community centre as a volunteer before transitioning to her present position last year, suggests volunteering is also a chance to build experience.
“You align your passions and interests to committee work, and part of that is learning how a board works and also the leadership and communication skills we’re looking for,” Singh explains.
Born in Fiji, but growing up in Canada, Singh says volunteering provided a great learning opportunity, and to better understand that what volunteering means to one individual may differ greatly from another. Either way, she says it is a way to develop a better understanding of your community.
While volunteering may look different than 20 years ago, Halfnights says it is no less important. And she says it is vital that the board, and committees, reflect the membership.
“Although we now have tons of opportunities for seniors, a lot of what we do is still for children,” she says. “We’re fortunate to have attracted five board members who have young children themselves, because there was a time when we were just a bunch of grey-haired people sitting around. And one of the things for us, and all associations, is to whittle the job down to something manageable for someone who has a family. We’re trying to encourage flexibility so (volunteering) is doable for people.”
While they’re not likely to sit on the board initially, volunteering is also a good way for young people to learn more about, and become engaged in their community.
“Everyone has a different perspective. We value that. I think we need that,” says Singh. “
Halfnights says the community centre plays an important role in each neighbourhood throughout Richmond, Thompson certainly being no exception.
“This was the realization of a dream,” she says. “The community centre is critically important. With the densification of our neighbourhood, more and more this is somebody’s rec room.”