Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines is a great fan of volunteers.

Writing in his Diplomatic Pouch column with the Philippine Star newspaper in Manila last spring, Neil Reeder noted that Canada and the Philippines benefit from a “tremendous reservoir of talent, energy and initiative” of volunteers, particularly those in non-profit groups.

“Many Canadians relish the opportunity to volunteer and work overseas through such organizations, helping those less fortunate than themselves,” Reeder noted.

The diplomat also related that humanitarian exchanges between the two countries are increasing.

These include volunteers from Canada who come to the Philippines to help with social housing projects, undertake medical and dental missions, among others.

Many of these volunteers are Canadian Filipinos, their engagement largely “driven by family connections”.

“With some 700,000 Canadians of Filipino origin, there is a strong sense of a trans-Pacific bayanihan – Fil-Canadians returning here to help their kababayans in need,” Reeder wrote.

This is heartwarming. Canadians are generous. Their kindness has touched the lives of many less fortunate people here at home and abroad.

Most recent statistics compiled by the federal government and released in January 2015 showed that in 2013, 12.7 million Canadians or 44 percent of people aged 15 years and older rendered volunteer work. They gave about 1.96 billion hours to their volunteer activities in that year.

In the paper titled ‘Volunteering and charitable giving in Canada’, Statistics Canada also noted that 82 percent of Canadians made financial donations to a charitable or non-profit organization in 2013. They donated a total of $12.8 billion.

These are all very impressive numbers. However, the same study also pointed to emerging challenges.

For one, the volunteer rate in 2013 of 44 percent was lower than that the 47 percent recorded in 2010; 46 percent in 2007; and 45 percent in 2004.

In addition, volunteers are aging. Statistics Canada reported that in 2013, 28 percent of all Canadian volunteers were aged 55 and older, compared to 23 percent in 2004.

The same patterns were also observed in terms of gift giving.

The 82 percent proportion of Canadians aged 15 and over, who made donations in 2013, is lower than in previous years. In 2010 and 2007, the rate was 84 percent. In 2004, it was 85 percent.

According to the federal statistics agency, older Canadians aged 55 and over accounted for 34 percent of the total population aged 15 and above in 2013. However, they accounted for nearly half or 47 percent of all donations made during that same year.

In other words, less Canadians are volunteering and making donations. Also worrisome is that less young people are getting involved in these commendable activities.

Imagine Canada, a group that assists charitable organizations, has taken note. It has launched its Personal Philanthropy Project to rekindle the spirit of giving among Canadians.
Another group, the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative Canada, is working to engage secondary students through school-based projects.

We all need to do more to encourage volunteerism and giving, especially among the young. It can start at home by discussing things that can be done by family members together to contribute to the wellbeing of their neighbourhoods. That could be a lot of fun as well for all.

Nothing is too small to do or give. As Statistics Canada noted in its paper, volunteering and giving build greater social cohesion, which in turn fosters more volunteerism and giving in society.
As we count our plentiful blessings this holiday season, let’s try to make sure that we also live up to it as a season of giving.


By the CFNet Editorial Board
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