Student volunteers asked to "Do So Much"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

  • Do So Much explores opportunities available to volunteers through innovation and technology

    Do So Much explores opportunities available to volunteers through innovation and technology

Written by Greg Beneteau

Have you got an hour to spare? How about five seconds?

Traditional ideas about what it means to give back to the community are being turned upside down by organizers of the Student Volunteer Connections conference.

The theme of this year's event, Do So Much, explores the increasing number of opportunities available to volunteers through innovation and technology, says Jordan Thompson, Executive Director of SVC.

"The conference is really a field on the saying 'you can only do so much,'" Thompson said. "However much that is, we want volunteers to do that much."

Students in particular may sometimes feel like they're too busy to commit at an organization, but that doesn't mean they can't contribute, Thompson noted.

Displays and workshops will focus on small-scale volunteer projects like "Social media for social good," a display on volunteer through social networking in the University Centre,  and micro-volunteering, defined as short, one-time commitments that can be as brief as signing a petition.

Thompson cited David Kranenberg, the conference's keynote speaker, as one success story. As the Executive Director of the national student-run charity meal exhange, Kranenberg and his organization (there are only three paid staff members) have been wildly successful at leveraging student volunteers to donate millions of dollars to local food banks through programs like Skip-A-Meal and Trick or Eat.

"I know in Guelph, [students] really get an opportunity to own the projects and be part of the organization. That's why it's so successful," Thompson said.

Local organizations, including Interhall Council, the Student Help and Advocacy Centre and the Volunteer Centre of Guelph-Wellington, will also be on hand making pitches to students eager to volunteer their time.

Despite the energy and enthusiasm young people bring to volunteerism, some organizations find it difficult to incorporate them into meaningful roles, notes Hailey Sheppard, Membership Services Coordinator for the Volunteer Centre of Guelph-Wellington.

"It's one thing have a young person stuffing enveloppes," Hailey said. "It's another to place youth in positions of real leadership and responsibility."

The Centre will be hosting a workshop called "What's it gonna take?" that will bring volunteers and organizations together in an effort to help each group understand the other's needs.

At the end of the conference, Hailey said they hope to compile a resource guide of ideas and experiences that volunteer organizations can draw upon for inspiration.

"We need to stop seeing youth as young and start seeing youth as experience and new ideas," Hailey said.

The SVC has been overwhelmed by the response to the conference so far, with registrants expected from a number of regional universities, high schools and colleges.

Do So Much Weekend takes place at the University of Guelph on January 22 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at various locations on campus. Registration starts at 9 a.m. in the University Centre.

To pre-register for the conference, go to www.dosomuch.ca

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