Five years ago a pair of motivated students at Langara College were searching for volunteer opportunities to give back to their community and to provide them with valuable experience, when they came to the conclusion that it would be so much easier if a program existed to organize volunteerism for them.
Jade Arignon and Warren Springer, along with the support of mentors within Langara’s Student Services departments, developed a proposal for the College’s Board of Governors that led to the creation of a pilot program to coordinate volunteer opportunities for students – both on and off campus.
The program – launched as VOLT in 2011 – works on the principal that every student is a “unit of potential”. Five years later, what began as an experiment for the College is now regarded as one of the most special and unique cultural features of the institution – Langara students are committed to volunteerism.
Through the program more than 1,000 students have so far donated their time to on-campus initiatives, as well as charities and organizations across Metro Vancouver and around the world. This includes 11 individuals who have been connected with volunteering opportunities at global NGOs through a partnership between VOLT and the Vancouver-based C.A.R.E Society. These students have taken volunteerism to the next level, spreading their commitment to giving back through orphanage work in Nepal, developing soccer programs in Kenya, animal care in Costa Rica and a host of other initiatives in nations including Honduras, Vietnam, Uganda, Peru, Bolivia, and South Africa.
“VOLT is such a tangible example of what Langara is all about,” says Lane Trotter, the College’s President and CEO. “Our institution and our students are intrinsically connected to our community in Metro Vancouver, and committed to creating positive change both on and off campus. But we’re also promoting global citizenship. The VOLT students prove time and time again that they’re thinking big picture –about the impact they can have both locally and internationally.”
The program is unique because it goes far beyond offering on-campus volunteer experiences. VOLT students do support a variety of Langara projects and events, including New Student Orientation, Pink Shirt Day, and the Langara Volunteer Fair. But their experience is enhanced through connections to organizations around Metro Vancouver – current opportunities available to VOLT students include serving as a field surveyor for Bird Studies Canada, a Literacy Mentor for the Writers’ Exchange, and a tree planter in Pacific Spirit Park for the Metro Vancouver Stewardship Program.
The value of the work has a deep and meaningful impact on program participants. Former student Maggie Stewart served as a VOLT student for two years, and was recently hired by Langara to coordinate the program.
“I can’t say enough how much I have gained through my experience with VOLT,” Stewart says. “The value of volunteerism has become an underpinning factor in my life. This program has given so much to our campus, and to Vancouver, in only five years. I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish in the next five, especially with the momentum that we have now.” To enhance her role as coordinator, Stewart is also pursuing a Volunteer Coordinator Certificate through Langara’s Continuing Studies Department.