Monthly Archives: March 2014

From Volunteer to Leader

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Olivia - Western ConnecticutVolunteering has been a huge part of my life for as far back as I can remember. My mom always instilled in me the importance of making time count, therefore volunteering only seemed natural. I came across my local YVC and realized it was the exact thing I was looking for.

I got off to a slow start with my local YVC of Western Connecticut program, volunteering mostly in the summer through our Summer of Service projects. I then came across an application for YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board. I figured I would send an application just to see what would happen.

Receiving a position on the board provided me with the opportunity of truly getting to know YVC as a program. During the Summit I learned just how impactful YVC has been on communities as well as individuals’ lives. I had the pleasure of meeting fellow volunteers from all across the United States as well as a few from Canada. I heard stories of past projects and people that stuck in volunteers’ minds.

Western Connecticut - Summer 2013 (12)After the Summit in Kansas City, I returned to Connecticut alongside my Program Director brimming with ideas to better our YVC. We sat down together and reviewed our notes from the Summit to see what we could bring to our community.

Since the Summit, the Youth Volunteer Corps of Western Connecticut has been a constant force of positive change in our community. We have tons of projects that appeal to all different interests such as monthly sessions tutoring elementary schoolers as well as hanging out with senior citizens.

We have created a Youth Advisory Board which has equipped our Affiliate with youth leadership and feedback. Our program’s growth correlates with my own as a volunteer. I have become a lot more involved, attending more projects, introducing new project ideas and leading whenever I can.

Olivia Harris volunteers with YVC of Western Connecticut and is a member of YVC’s International Youth Advisory Board.

There’s Nothing to Do in…

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Yellowstone County 2014“I’m bored. There’s nothing to do in…(fill in the blank with your town’s name).”

No matter whether you filled in that blank with Los Angeles or Peculiar, Missouri, you’ve probably heard a teenager say that—or said it yourself.

Summer break is just around the corner, and parents are looking for fun, educational and rewarding activities for their kids to get involved in this summer to ensure that the break is filled with more than just sleeping in.

For families in the 31 communities that currently have YVC programs, the answer is easy. YVC Summer of Service is the best way we know of to have a great time over the summer while meeting new friends, learning about your community and making a difference. Check out our “Find a YVC” page to see if there’s a YVC in your area.

Western Connecticut - Summer 2013 (7)Don’t see your community on the list? We’re currently searching across the U.S. and Canada for new communities who need a YVC. We dream of the day that every single youth has the opportunity to volunteer with their local YVC.

Here’s how you can help us get there:

1. Help us launch a YVC. Whether you’re interested in leading the effort to launch a YVC yourself, or whether you’d prefer simply writing a letter or speaking to community officials advocating for YVC, we need your help. Contact Paul Marksbury, YVC’s Affiliate Services Coordinator, and we’ll help you every step of the way—no matter how involved you’d like to be.

2. Donate to YVC to help fund our expansion. Any amount helps.

3. Be the first person to spread the word when YVC comes to your community. Sign up for our monthly newsletter below to so you’re the first to know when we arrive in your hometown:

 

Natalie’s Story: From Shy to Leader

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Natalie DeFour (Alpena) (1)

As the YVC director I have the opportunity to work with a diverse range of Youth Volunteers. One youth, Natalie, has been a constant inspiration and breath of fresh air since my inception with the program 4 years ago.

Natalie came to YVC looking to branch out and be more active in the community. She understood the value of giving back at a much earlier timeframe than most of her classmates.

Natalie struggles with extreme shyness. This may not sound like a debilitating hindrance, but it really held her back from opening up and getting to know individuals. As a director I wanted to see her flourish and be more comfortable in a group setting and have her voice heard. Natalie is a straight A student that has a lot of great things to say, but still had not learned how to use her voice. Through icebreaker and reflection activities Natalie was eventually put in situations before and after each project where she would have to share her thoughts and feelings. She slowly started to break out of her shell and actively engage in discussion.

Natalie is now a senior in high school and has earned the Volunteer of the Year Award performing over 400 hours of community service and the Youth of Year Award. She has earned the Presidential Service Award-Silver Medallion with her volunteer work. She now gives public speeches to community leaders, classmates, board members, and administrators from the area. She is the President of the YVC Youth Advisory Council and talks openly to new and potential members about the benefit of the program. Natalie DeFour (Alpena) (2)She actively recruits with me and her voice is now being heard. There are so many wonderful things that she can let out. She has opened up others through her words and turned them on to volunteerism.

She attributes working with YVC as her outlet to express herself and credits the staff for allowing her to grow and have her voice heard. Teaching youth the skills to express themselves is a crucial part of the job and Natalie has not disappointed. She is a great asset to the YVC program and has really become my strongest leader and most vocal advocate, learning that being heard in the community is an important aspect to becoming a great leader and role model.

This story was originally published as part of the 2012 YVC Transformative Story Grant. YVC of Alpena, Michigan, received a $1,000 grant for their story, written by Brad Somers, Executive Director of YVC of Alpena.

Do you have a story about YVC’s impact on your life? Email Lacey at lhelmig@yvc.org to share your story.

Spotlight on: YVC of Calgary

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Calgary Spotlight

Can you believe it’s March already? That means it’s time for the second installment of our new monthly series, the YVC Spotlight!

Andrew Min 2.28.14_croppedJulieThis month we are traveling north to Calgary, Alberta, where we will meet Andrew and Julie, two outstanding Youth Volunteers from YVC of Calgary. YVC of Calgary has been a huge part of the YVC family for over 20 years!

Currently, they are the largest YVC in North America with over 1,000 Youth Volunteers volunteering over 40,000 hours in the last year alone! Way to go, Calgary! That is phenomenal!

Both Andrew Min and Julie Moysiuk have been volunteering with YVC of Calgary since the summer of 2013 and already they are making a difference in their community!

Tell us about your favorite YVC project:

Julie Moysiuk: What a tough question! There are so many meaningful projects with YVC Calgary where I can connect to the community and interact with various kinds of people. I’d have to say that my favorite project was the Salvation Army Camp that I volunteered at this past summer. Projects where I can work with kids are such a rewarding experience because they can learn from me, and I can learn from them. I enjoy working with children because I can motivate them to become engaged in their own community. In turn, they teach me how to be patient, adaptable, and caring. I really enjoyed my volunteering experience at that summer camp, and I hope to return this year.

Andrew Min: For me personally, my favorite YVC project deals with anything that contributes to the Salvation Army in Calgary. The Salvation Army is a charitable, non-profit organization that seeks to help low-income, immigrant, and homeless families. In pursuing their mission of helping these families, the Salvation Army has several events that provide meaningful opportunities and experiences for YVC volunteers. These events include serving a meal, day camps for children, and other activities that help these families. In attending these YVC projects, not only do I have fun, but it is an emotional experience for me. To have an opportunity to make a difference for these families and helping them is an honorable experience, and I feel emotional in helping these families become integrated and stronger members of society.

Calgary Spotlight 2014 - 2What is your favorite icebreaker and why?

JM:  My favorite icebreaker is Heads Up because it provides a lively and interactive activity to introduce youth to each other. At projects where this icebreaker has been played, everyone ends up laughing and feeling comfortable with the other volunteers. This activity is also great because everyone is included, and people are inclined to open up in the amusing environment.

AM:  My favorite icebreaker is probably when we get together as a volunteer group to play some kind of activity such as playing the app Heads Up on an electronic device or other fun games. Going around the group and stating everyone’s name and aspects of their personality can be fun, but playing different games and activities can really lighten the mood and atmosphere of the group and everyone could get along better, particularly for volunteers who have never met each other.

Why do you volunteer?

JM: I volunteer because it enables me to contribute positively to my city. Witnessing the smile on an elder’s face, the gratefulness of a homeless man receiving lunch, or the appreciative glance of the craft coordinator at a festival is what makes my choice to volunteer worthwhile. By volunteering, I can support causes that go far beyond my individual actions.  Through this contribution, I have been exposed to pertinent issues and needs in my community which inspires me to make a difference. Volunteering gives me a place to belong in society where I can bring about tangible benefits to those who need a helping hand, and that is the greatest reward of all.

AM:  In answering this question, some may answer stating that volunteerism is good for recognition such as in university or job applications. However, my reason for volunteering is as simple as being a compassionate role-model and a contributor in making a positive difference to all those surrounding me and in my community. What makes me happy the most is when I receive the opportunity to help others, even without a reward or merit at the end. I volunteer because I want to ensure that my community and all members are positively affected by my contributions.

Calgary Spotlight 2014 - 1How has YVC influenced your life?

JM: YVC of Calgary has influenced my life by showing me the “big picture” of the world. I’ve been able to enhance essential life skills such as teamwork, communication and problem solving. Becoming aware of societal needs and seeing how I can address them as part of the youth demographic empowers me. Volunteering has also shaped my life by teaching me how to interact with others through the youth volunteers and my YVC steering committee. Learning to meet new people in both relaxed and professional environments has given me the experience and confidence to embrace my future.  Overall, YVC has impacted my life positively, exposing me to the ways of the world in a context that provides the opportunity to better myself and my community.

AM: Not only has the Youth Volunteer Corps program given me so many different experiences and opportunities in many different aspects of volunteerism, but it has taught me to become a kind and generous person to others surrounding me and in my community. In every single YVC project, there’s always something to gain and learn, and in each project, I continue to develop a strong perspective to always commit myself to the global community and make an effort to create a better society for everyone in the world today.

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