The Lions Club recently awarded three $1,000 bursaries to university students who graduated from Smithers high schools. As part of their application, students had to write an essay on the subject: “Why do you believe volunteering is important to your community?” The following is the essay that stood out.
Empathy is poured into bowls of hot soup held in hardened grips, which soften at the sudden comfort. Kindness is neatly packed beside gifts in Christmas hampers, and laughter richly stains wooden stage sets. These moments appear to be scattered tools for human connection, but when bonded together by the selflessness of volunteers, they form the foundation for inclusive, supportive communities. In a small town like Smithers, the impact of volunteerism is deeply felt; everything that makes us unique, from our music festivals to our charming thrift stores and even the experiences of Hudson Bay Mountain, are indebted to the work of local volunteers.
In Smithers, it is easy to feel as though you know the stories of every face that passes you in the street. However, the volunteer community in Smithers is always in flux, and it allows people to connect that never would have otherwise.
With opportunities to help at places such as the Smithers Community Services Association or at events such as the Smithers Special Olympics, volunteerism allows the community of Smithers to continue to promote acceptance for all. This is important not just to those accessing these volunteer services, but for the entire town. The act of volunteering helps to break down the biases we all have, and fosters awareness and an acceptance of differences. This realization is deeply important to creating an even better quality of life in Smithers, where everyone can equally experience all this town has to offer.
The act of volunteering is help without judgment or expectation of recompense, and this is vital to the creation of a closer community connection in Smithers. The act of volunteering teaches and rewards kindness, and shows that even a little bit of help is appreciated. In a time when grandiose humanitarian gestures go viral in seconds, it is hard to feel like we can help enough to be worthwhile. However, Smithers has a unique way of making volunteering as easy and accessible as possible. From taking two minutes to purchase a can of soup or boxed macaroni for a food bank, to longer commitments such as sewing something for our semi-professional musical theatre plays, Smithers is full of easy ways to volunteer. The accessibility of volunteering in Smithers has created something wonderful, a community of people who know they can make a difference, even if it’s small.
This compassion and drive to create positive change is important to our future community as well. Through volunteering, the children of the Bulkley Valley are provided with role models and quickly become part of the cycle of civic duty and compassion. When children see their parents and trusted adults volunteering, they are exposed to the fun stories, the laughter, and the idea of making the world a better place. The volunteer community in Smithers has been especially encouraging to children, from allowing them to help make signs for festivals to having them up on stage as volunteer emcees. Through these experiences, the younger generation has both seen and felt the benefits of giving back.
Even if schedules make it difficult to fully commit to a high level of volunteerism, children are encouraged by parents to volunteer, especially in the spirit of Christmas. If feels good, as a child, to help make another person’s Christmas as wonderful and magical as your own. It is taught by many parents that by helping choose food for Christmas Hampers, or saving up an allowance to give to Santa for the Lions Club Skate with Santa event, the Christmas spirit lives on, no matter how old you are. This early introduction to micro-volunteering is important for the Smithers community, as it tells our younger generations that their contributions are worthy, and inspires them to always continue to make the world a better place.
When you search for it, you realize the impacts of volunteering are everywhere in Smithers. Hand-painted signs for music festivals are coloured with both paint and laughter, while both hot soup and empathy are poured into bowls for a hearty meal. Human connection is best felt through volunteering — when help is given simply because someone else needs it. Volunteering is so important to our community, because it creates a culture of kindness, awareness, and acceptance. And with all these qualities, there is no doubt that we can change the world.
Savannah Parsons is a second year UNBC student aspiring to become a features profile journalist.