Blog·Checkup

Young people want to volunteer but face barriers from employers: youth

Hannah Ruuth is a long-time volunteer but has found that employers are often deaf to her and other youths' requests for time booked off to volunteer.
Hannah Ruuth volunteering to teach karate to children with disabilities (right). Ruuth says certain employers she's had are unwilling to accommodate scheduling for volunteer commitments, which is an impediment for many young people. (Reuters (left) / Hannah Ruuth (right))

Volunteering is an important part of Hannah Ruuth's schedule. She's a youth ambassador for Children First Canada as well as a volunteer karate instructor, among other things. But in her experience, there are many barriers that prevent youth from volunteering as much as they want and are expected to.

She phoned Cross Country Checkup to discuss these barriers and how employers can better respect volunteer commitments.

Natasha Fatah: What do you think about volunteering and young people volunteering in this country?

Hannah Ruuth: Oh, I definitely think there is a huge push for young people to volunteer in their communities and there are a lot of young people that are involved. For instance, if I go to an event I'd say at least 50 per cent of the volunteers are young people. But when you move towards more long-term commitments, there's a smaller ratio of young people. Like, I teach a karate class every week — a class of therapeutic martial art for kids suffering from life threatening disabilities or illnesses — and I'm the youngest person who volunteers there and the rest are people with families at home or in full-time work.

NF: So then what do you find are the challenges? Why aren't more people volunteering?

HR: Well, I think it's really because of external commitments. When you have a part-time job, it's very hard for your employers to understand that you need time off to volunteer. So, for instance, when I was working at Tim Hortons, I asked for every Wednesday off. It's the same request as somebody who plays soccer every week. I said that I wanted every Wednesday off so I could volunteer. But I wasn't necessarily given the same respect as if I had said I wanted the time off for a soccer game. So I was scheduled continuously on Wednesdays even though I already had external commitments.

I think that's a huge factor when talking about youth volunteering because you're facing your job which you need to pay for university and post-secondary versus giving back to your community.

NF: So you've found that you've got a bunch of challenges. You've got a time challenge, you've got an employer challenge. There's all kinds of impediments. You want to give more and yet there are impediments to giving more.

HR: Yes, definitely. I volunteer more now because I quit that job. But it's a challenge that many young people face in the community.

Hannah Ruuth's and Natasha Fatah's comments have been edited and condensed. This online segment was prepared by Ayesha Barmania.

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