Youth Volunteerism Unlocks Life and Leadership Skills in Calgary

Jan 22, 2024 10:00 AM ET
teens in Youth Central t-shirts and the photographer smiling in the foreground

Youth Central is building tomorrow’s leaders by offering barrier-free volunteer opportunities

“At the root of the organization has always been a desire to create a welcoming and safe space for young people in Calgary.”

Through its Youth Volunteer Corps (YVC) program, Youth Central is offering a way for young Calgarians to give back to their community while building essential life skills in the process.

“Youth can sign up to join our database and see hundreds of volunteer projects at their fingertips,” says Michelle Hodgins, Communications and Philanthropy Coordinator, Youth Central. “The idea is to be able to volunteer as much or as little as you like with the causes you care about.”

Established in 1993, the YVC program aims to engage youth aged 12 to 18 in group-based experiences that inspire a lifetime ethic of service.

The program shows only signs of momentum for the near future, with volunteer demand increasing by 40% over the past year and more than 1,500 youth currently signed up. Projects are typically sourced from Youth Central’s 90-agency local partner network, granting youth volunteers the option to do anything from working with seniors to staffing a children’s day camp.

Some more season-appropriate volunteer opportunities include helping to wrap gifts over the holidays, assisting in decorating a senior’s home or making dog toys at the Calgary Humane Society.

“Through these projects, youth are developing crucial skills like time management, communication, and teamwork,” says Hodgins. “It’s more than just something good to do for the community—youth volunteers are learning to become leaders.”

Youth Central works to break down barriers and provide meaningful opportunities for young people to engage in volunteering and become community leaders. All volunteer opportunities are vetted by Youth Central, and all projects are staffed by a university-aged student who leads the group through its volunteer activity.

“By including young people and encouraging them to participate, it makes the community better for everybody,” says Hodgins.

This year, Enbridge gave a $20,000 Fueling Futures donation to Youth Central as part of our commitment to building vibrant communities near our operations. The funding supports the YVC program, enabling the organization to add staff and enhance its reporting abilities.

Enbridge has supported the YVC program since 2020.

“We take an equity lens with everything,” says Hodgins. “The funding helps to make sure that youth aren’t restricted from participating in volunteer opportunities due to things like transportation or language barriers.”

More than 22,300 volunteer hours were completed under the YVC program last year, almost doubling its 2021 total. Youth Central is always welcoming volunteers to join its network in Calgary.

“Working directly with young people and seeing the world through their eyes always inspires me,” says Hodgins. “Seeing their enthusiasm for change and their ability to problem solve in new ways is the best part of the job.”