April 23 to 29 is National Volunteer Week, a time for all Canadians to recognize and celebrate the valuable contributions that volunteers make to our communities. Every day, volunteers in communities like ours across Canada share their time and skills to support countless organizations, programs and events that enrich and support our society.
Having spent many years volunteering with organizations from the local to national level, I know first-hand the valuable contributions that volunteerism provides to Canada. Volunteers provide essential support for people of all ages and abilities. Whether it is for education, health care, sports or entertainment, volunteering enriches our lives.
According to the most recent data on volunteerism collected by Statistics Canada, 44 per cent of Canadians volunteered in 2013. While youth aged 15 to 19 led with a rate of 66 per cent, adults aged 55 years and older volunteered the most hours.
In the past week, I have had the pleasure of connecting with elementary and high school students to highlight National Volunteer Week and promote the fact that we all have something to offer our communities and I was impressed with the energy that our young people have when it comes to contributing to our communities. I also appreciate the generosity and commitment of adult Canadians whether they are parents volunteering for their kids’ school or seniors volunteering to support their communities.
On April 10, I had the honour of introducing a bill in the House of Commons that seeks to establish a national award medal for volunteer search and rescue (SAR) personnel. From coast to coast to coast across Canada, SAR volunteers give their time and energy on a regular basis to search for and assist people in distress and I believe it is time that Canada had an award medal to acknowledge and celebrate the sacrifices and dangers that these volunteers contend with on a regular basis.
This week, I have been participating in volunteer opportunities in our communities to connect with volunteers who contribute to so many great organizations, programs and events across our region. I encourage everyone to join me in recognizing and celebrating the volunteers who make our communities better, healthier and safer places to live. They deserve our thanks and appreciation.
Mel Arnold is MP for North Okanagan-Shuswap.