With Thoughts Turning to Back-to-School Season, Projects Abroad Reveals What Really Matters to Students when It Comes to Mandatory Volunteering

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With mandatory volunteering accounting for an increasing number of volunteer hours, Director of Projects Abroad Canada says that the most successful high school volunteer placements are those that students consider to be worthwhile, manageable, enjoyable and potentially career-enhancing.

Rescuing Turtles in Mexico

“Many say that it has opened their eyes, given them experiences that they wouldn’t have received in school and encouraged them to engage in civic or voluntary groups on an ongoing basis."

North Americans are an altruistic bunch when it comes to charitable giving. Although the Fraser Institute reported at the end of 2011 that there is a "significant generosity gap" between Canadian and American tax filers, the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating revealed that 84% of the population aged 15 and over made a financial donation to a charitable or non-profit organization in 2010. In addition, about 47% of the population volunteered a whopping 2.1 billion hours of their time – equivalent to almost 1.1 million full-time jobs.

The vast majority of volunteers give their time to non-profit organizations because they want to but, in both Canada and the USA, there is an increasing trend towards mandatory volunteerism among employers and education establishments. In Ontario, for example, high schools require students to complete 40 hours of community involvement in order to graduate.

“Most young people have a positive experience when completing their mandatory community service, partly because they believe they’re making a positive difference to lives and communities, and partly because they feel they’re contributing to their self-improvement and career prospects,” said Robert Levine of international volunteering organization Projects Abroad. “We have found that students who can gain a sense of fun from their placement also feel emotionally fulfilled, so we developed our High School Specials program with the above factors in mind.”

Projects Abroad provides flexible placements skilled and qualified people, students, career breakers and seniors. The High School Specials are specially structured two-week volunteer trips for students that enable them to do something worthwhile, enjoyable, manageable and potentially career-enhancing – factors that students themselves identified as important when weighing up the success of their placement.

“With our short programs, we aim to give young people valuable work experience and skills in the time they spend abroad,” said Robert. “From archaeology in Peru to medicine in Mongolia, all placements follow a schedule designed by expert in-country staff, which allows for plenty of contact with other students, evening activities and weekend excursions.”

Students from all over Canada have used Projects Abroad to fulfill their required high school volunteer hours, and at the end of their placement they receive assistance in completing the necessary forms to make sure their time is credited. “Whether students believe in the principle of mandatory volunteering or not, their actual experiences are overwhelmingly positive,” said Robert.

“Many say that it has opened their eyes, given them experiences that they wouldn’t have received in school and encouraged them to engage in civic or voluntary groups on an ongoing basis. There is some evidence to back this up, including the Canada Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating. We say to anyone going into Grade 9 and thinking about volunteering abroad: visit our website and look at the programs and support we offer. Structured, interesting and worthwhile, we will help make your volunteering experience a really positive one.”

About Projects Abroad

Projects Abroad is a leading volunteer abroad organization. We offer a diverse range of international service projects, plus the opportunity to become part of one of our volunteer communities abroad. Our continuous presence overseas and unparalleled in-country support from international staff ensure that your experience will be far more worthwhile and genuine than those of the average tourist.

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