“Volunteering” to help others, but also yourself

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&laquo ; Volunteering” to help others, but also yourself

At the hospital, at school or in the community centres, volunteers are present everywhere. They blend in with the decor, rubbing shoulders with the professionals. Regardless of their motivation, their actions are useful and their role is crucial.

Consuelo Vásquez, professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication, UQAM

Cooking for the homeless, preparing food baskets for those who are struggling to make ends meet, visiting the sick to break the isolation and putting on music shows for the benefit of various charities… Volunteering takes countless forms and is present at all levels of society.

Volunteering could be expressed by giving of oneself, one's time, one's skills and one's energy to society, explains Consuelo Vásquez, professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication at UQAM.

But be careful, notes the one who coordinates the program Le Bénévolat en mouvement. Giving is not a one-way street and there are many reasons that motivate people to volunteer beyond altruism.

Ms. Vásquez believes in the theory of giving/counter-gift, advocated by the French sociologist and anthropologist Marcel Mauss, based on the idea of ​​a social contract based on reciprocity.

Yes, there is the gift of one's person and of their time, but there is always a relational dimension which is extremely strong, she says.

“We give to others and we receive them at the same time. »

— Consuelo Vásquez, Professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication, UQAM

You'll notice a lot of volunteers will say, “I get more than I give,” recalls Ms. Vásquez.

Dr. Guy Parizeau, a pediatrician, is a member of The Doc Show, a 14-person group comprising a dozen medical musicians who take to the stage to raise money for various causes. He says he finds in volunteering the selfish way to play music usefully with his colleagues and colleagues.

“It's volunteering which does a service not only to the people who will receive money, but in large part to us as well. »

— Dr Guy Parizeau, pediatrician member of the Doc Show

The Doc Show on stage

Meet at Moisson Montreal, a charity that collects donations of food and essential products to redistribute them free of charge to community organizations, Marc Hubert is a volunteer regular. He comes to work four days a week.

“I've been coming here for three and a half years. I'm retired and I've decided it's time to give back to the community.

— Marc Hubert, volunteer, Moisson Montreal

Marc Hubert, volunteer, Moisson Montreal

A former executive in several companies, he had visited the premises ten years ago. He had liked the atmosphere then and, above all, had convinced him to offer a little of his time. He also uses his experience to train young volunteers.

There is a feeling of doing something good, he adds.

Here, we have about sixty volunteers who come every day to help us distribute the food, explains Natalie Clairoux, support agent, customer experience at Moisson Montreal.

Moisson Montreal volunteers come from different backgrounds.

The majority of these volunteers come from either corporate groups or school groups.

For example, during spring break, we had many children accompanied by their parents who want to teach them the values ​​of society: give back, she says.

As for corporate groups, these are often people who will be paid by their company to come and volunteer, continues Ms. Clairoux.

Natalie Clairoux, Support Agent, Customer Experience at Moisson Montreal

In addition to the gift of self, the volunteer could benefit from it by seeking a better integration into his environment. This is particularly the case of immigrants for whom volunteering allows them to get to know the host society better, to establish relationships and to socialize, explains Consuelo Vásquez.

The volunteers received at Moisson Montréal are of all ages and of all origins. Some even entered the country via Roxham Road, on the border between Canada and the United States. While waiting for the authorities to decide on their case, they come to spend the day with us […] It's an incredible gift of self, says Ms. Clairoux.

“It's a place for socializing that allows you to come out of your shell. »

— Natalie Clairoux, Support Agent, Customer Experience, Moisson Montreal

Doudou Sow, a sociologist by training and author of several books on the integration and regionalization of immigration, emphasizes the importance of volunteering for newcomers. He sees it as a window through which there are job opportunities.

Originally from Africa and committed since a young age, he admits that the volunteer experience has been useful to him in a job interview in Quebec.

Doudou Sow, sociologist, author and lecturer

Beyond the development of skills, volunteering allows newcomers to learn, develop and validate new knowledge.

Volunteering should be targeted according to a cause, career or values ​​that are important to you, he insists in his book Integration : a shared responsibility between the host society and the immigrant em>.

“Volunteering also allows you to understand cultural codes by being in contact with members of the host society and to validate if there is a need for a professional reorientation. »

— Doudou Sow, sociologist, author and lecturer

He gives the example of the teacher who could start with homework help in his or her school. neighborhood.

We need to involve more young people in volunteering […] we need to encourage thinking about volunteering fairly early on, it's very important, pleads Wendy Reid, honorary professor in the Department of Management at HEC Montréal.

< p class="e-p">We must develop the culture of volunteerism. This also involves programs in schools to interest these young people, she insists.

This is also the opinion of Mohamed Noredine Mimoun, coordinator of the youth forum of Saint -Michel in Montreal, who is constantly on the field with the young people he supervises.

Mohamed Noredine Mimoun, coordinator of the Saint-Michel youth forum

Often, these volunteers come from modest and sometimes difficult backgrounds, but volunteering keeps them hooked as life goes on. Every Saturday, they meet in the kitchen to prepare meals for the benefit of the homeless.

The exercise is not just about the feeling of having given to others. It also allows young people to develop skills, gain autonomy and be exposed to teamwork. It is also about knowing how to manage your time and your priorities by discovering causes, insists Mr. Mimoun.

“I put young people in the middle of the action. Instead of being those who receive help, they become those who give, who contribute to solidarity within society. »

— Mohamed Noredine Mimoun, coordinator of the Saint-Michel youth forum

Young volunteers prepare meal for the itinerant.

In Quebec, volunteering is formalized, organized: there are volunteer action centers, the Federation of Volunteer Actions, and structures set up to promote and raise awareness of volunteering. This form of commitment is also put forward as being an added value for young people, to improve their curriculum vitae, specifies Ms. Vásquez.

It also involves supervising volunteers, says Jean-François Dubé, communications manager at Moisson Montreal. It's hard, he says, to show someone who's here for a day how to do the job well so that we can continue to operate normally.

Jean-François Dubé, communications officer at Moisson Montreal.

But be careful, if there are advantages to formalizing volunteering, we should not go too far either, believes Ms. Vásquez.

There is a very strong trend in Western countries to professionalize volunteering, she says, referring to procedures to standardize the recruitment and management of volunteers.

We are in a managerial logic, like managing a business. It even talks about volunteer human resources, explains Professor Vásquez.

“When we have a hyper professionalization of volunteering actions, there is a part of the very nature of the act such as spontaneity and socialization that is lost. »

— Consuelo Vásquez, professor in the Department of Social and Public Communication, UQAM

Moisson Montreal premises< /p>

Whatever the motivations of the volunteers, they are essential for the operation of many organizations.

For us, at Moisson Montreal, the volunteers who come every day are the equivalent of 30 full-time paid employees. This allows us as an organization not to have to pay the salary of 30 people. It is true that it is a monetary value, says Natalie Clairoux.

Without the contribution of these volunteers, I think we could not function. It represents so many salaries that it would be practically impossible, continues for his part Jean-François Dubé, in charge of communications at Moisson Montreal.

Volunteers in the food sorting section.

According to the Volunteer Action Network, 80% of Quebecers volunteer with an organization or with individuals. Some 41% of them do so for pleasure or interest, while 37% give their time in the culture and recreation sector, including sports and the outdoors. Based on figures from 2018, the RABQ has 268 million hours worked with organizations.

If you think only of the third sector [of the economy], all that is community organizations and associative environments, you will find that they are made up of 20% employees and 80% volunteers. A large part of social and health services is taken care of by the third sector. Because the State has shrunk and we see this delegation to the third sector which relies heavily on voluntary work, says Consuelo Vásquez.

The example of the world of sports is striking, she notes. The members of the administration committee are volunteers, the coaches often in the minor leagues are parent volunteers, those who ensure the travel of the teams are volunteers, in addition to the sports associations which depend greatly on volunteers.

< p class="e-p">At the hospital, at school or in community centers… Ask any organization: without volunteers, it could not achieve its mission.

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