The call to volunteer

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Posted on 
June 10, 2019

Volunteering is one of the cornerstones of any society. But in our Francophone communities, it’s much more. Volunteering is necessary for ensuring the survival, continuity and vitality of the communities.

What is volunteering? A dictionary might say that it’s an activity carried out by a volunteer. Okay, but what’s a volunteer? According to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, a volunteer is “a person who works for an organization voluntarily and without pay.”

Let me come back to the vitality of our Francophone communities. The following question arises: where does the call to volunteer come from, here in our minority communities? For some people, the call is innate and comes from deep within. For them, volunteering is about doing something for others. For other people, volunteering is a learning opportunity. Seeing other people take action and do something for others motivates them to do the same. In short, volunteering is a knowledge exchange.

Volunteering can take many forms. In our communities, everyone volunteers to some extent, and some do it to the point of exhaustion! We see the same people at all the events organized by the local Francophone association. Vitality and survival seem to rest on their shoulders.

Will there be a shortage of volunteers if new ones don’t come forward? How do we encourage new people to volunteer and thus ensure the future of our communities? I believe that, to motivate new volunteers, we must encourage them to participate in activities they like. Reading to children and seniors, taking part in art activities, playing board games, singing, playing sports and participating in community evenings are all opportunities for people to gradually get involved, collaborate, make themselves useful and, without realizing it, join the Francophone volunteer community.

I’ve been living in Newfoundland and Labrador for the last 43 years. My part-time involvement in the Official-Languages Monitor Program led me to Corner Brook, where I began my studies at Memorial Regional College (now the Grenfell Campus), and worked as a language monitor in Cape St. George on the Port au Port Peninsula, and later in St. John’s, at Memorial University. Since I didn’t speak English at the time, I thanked my parents many times over for encouraging me to get involved in the English scout movement in Dorval, Quebec, and later, my father for accepting a transfer to Grand Falls, New Brunswick. These life experiences taught me two things: first, that there are people who speak English and who go about activities similar to mine; and second, that there are people who talk and live in French outside of Quebec, including in Canada’s tenth province!

The type of volunteering that I’m most fond of is … speaking French! Who’d have thought it? It’s a sort of quiet activism. I do it everywhere! In the taxi, at the coffee shop, with janitors and security guards in the workplace. People I don’t even know greet me with a little “Bonjour” when they come to work in the morning!

We must answer the call to volunteer. It’s a win-win for everyone!

Translated by Line Lalande, Language Portal of Canada

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The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

About the author

Suzelle Lavallée

Suzelle Lavallée is a teacher by training. She taught late immersion programs in Labrador City and St. John’s, as well as to adults. She is interested in people and in the particularities of the places she visits. She was born in Quebec, but her career brought her to New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador, where she attended Memorial University.

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