Sudbury

Pandemic pushing more volunteers into virtual roles, Volunteer Sudbury says

The pandemic, and the restrictions that go with it, has changed the way people volunteer.

Virtual volunteering may work for high school students who have to complete 40 volunteer hours to graduate

Volunteer Sudbury, which connects volunteers with non-profit groups in the city, says agencies have had to modify their operations, and some don't have the capacity to support volunteers. However they're hearing from teenagers who are anxious to get their hours in. (Facebook/Volunteer Sudbury)

The pandemic, and the restrictions that go with it, has changed the way people volunteer.

Many local non-profit organizations have had to change how they operate, and no longer have the capacity to support volunteers at this time, says Isabella Izumi, program coordinator at Volunteer Sudbury, an organization that connects volunteers with non-profit groups in the city.

Izumi adds that older volunteers have also backed away from volunteering because they fall in the at-risk category.

Some agencies have reduced their hours, closed their offices or simply don't have the space to allow for a large number of people, but Izumi says some groups are offering virtual volunteering opportunities.

"So they can volunteer from home — often it would be using a computer or telephones. For instance a wellness call could be done from home. But they wouldn't have to be on site to do that volunteer opportunity."

Virtual volunteering could be a solution for high school students who typically have to complete 40 hours of volunteer work before they can officially graduate.

The Ministry of Education says it's working with school boards to find new ways to support students in their volunteer work.

In an email to CBC News, a ministry spokesperson says school boards are also exploring ways for students to participate in virtual volunteer opportunities, such as supporting seniors virtually, fundraising, as well as activities that take place outside, such as picking up litter in communities.

"Virtual volunteer opportunities can be found through agencies such as Spark Ontario, and some local school boards have updated their list of acceptable volunteer opportunities. Schools could also connect with Seniors Active Living Centres in their community for opportunities. These Seniors Active Living Centres offer a range of social, cultural, learning and recreational programs for seniors. Schools may also want to connect with local community organizations that are offering virtual volunteer activities to support vulnerable and isolated people, such as Meals on Wheels."

The ministry says it's continuing to monitor the situation and will continue to work with school boards so that the community involvement graduation requirement is not a barrier for students to graduate in the 2021-22 school year.

Izumi says Volunteer Sudbury is hearing from teenagers who are anxious to get their hours in.

"I receive a lot of inquiries from students, their parents, educators as well, who are looking for opportunities," she said. "And they have become more frequent since school has started."

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