National Volunteer Week – April 10th – 16th, 2016
National Volunteer Week is a time to celebrate Canadians who give back to their communities. Even our Prime Minister has expressed his gratitude, and acknowledged the important role that volunteers play in the well-being of our country.
United Way of the Alberta Capital Region would like to express our sincere gratitude to the many people who donate their time and skills to assist us in our mission to end poverty in our community. In any given year, United Way is fortunate to have thousands of caring individuals wanting to help in some way. We want to thank and acknowledge all of the Employee Campaign Chairs, Committee members, Board and Cabinet members, Poverty Simulation volunteers, Day of Caring volunteers and our Community Impact Speakers.
United Way's Community Impact Speaker program is a forum for individuals to share their personal experiences with poverty to provide awareness and inspire social change. One person who is a passionate advocate of poverty elimination, is Brent Guidinger. In his day to day work as Development Manager at Boyle Street Community Services, he sees the reality of people experiencing poverty and by sharing this reality with others he's able to inform our community about the complex issues surrounding poverty.
Brent started volunteering as a Community Impact Speaker in 2015, and we asked him about this experience.
Why did you decide to be a Community Impact Speaker with United Way?
I thought it was a very cool idea. You don’t see a lot of volunteer roles where you’re this front line, where you get to talk about the work you do in such a free environment. My team (at Boyle Street) started to do more community engagement this past year, and this was a good opportunity to talk to all kinds of groups – engineers, lawyers, government workers, etc. You never know who’s going to be in the room, who your story is going to resonate with or what’s going to come from that connection.
What did you talk about in your presentation?
The biggest thing is being able to share what I’ve seen and learned - real stories of people living in Edmonton. I talked about how I get to work with people from a lot different backgrounds, then I listed the different occupations that the people who were homeless had had in the past. If I was talking to engineers, then I would talk about the engineers who I know that had become homeless, and would do the same for professors, business owners, etc. I talked to people about how quickly you can fall into poverty, regardless of how well you may be doing right now, but that it can be a long struggle to get out of it. A huge piece of this is advocacy, going to bat for folks, cutting through a lot of the stigmas.
What were the benefits & impact of your speaking engagements?
Anytime that you can get in front of people and talk about issues that matter, that’s a win in my books. Personally, it was good practice for me, I was looking to do more public speaking, so it was great for professional development. Some people hadn’t heard of Boyle Street before so it was good to have more awareness about our organization. There were folks who made sock donations and other In-kind donations afterwards, and people who came and talked to me to discuss other ways for them to give back. That’s what has to happen to change the conversations around poverty, it has to start from the ground up, and it has to start with relationships.
Would you recommend this experience to others?
Absolutely. I felt very welcomed everywhere I went, it was all very organized. Poverty is an issue that requires collaboration - we have to work together to move forward, and this is an incredible opportunity to have conversations. It can be difficult to take the time to do that when you’re living minute to minute in the nonprofit world, but it can pay off huge down the road. I think it’s a very valuable resource to tap into.
For more info about Brent and the Boyle Street Outreach Team - watch this short YouTube video courtesy of PCL Construction.
For more information about becoming a Community Impact Speaker:
Please contact Tasha at (780) 443-8380 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank a volunteer this week!
Tweet the hashtag #yegvolunteers and let everyone know how much you value the volunteers in your life.