What is community service?
Community service is more commonly referred to as volunteering.
Volunteering is the act of freely giving your time and labour to an cause or activity that benefits your community. It’s a great way to show that you care about your society, and that you are motivated to work by goodwill, not just money.
Volunteers can help their community by offering support to those in need of help. You can also use volunteering opportunities to network and build skills, which will be important when you are looking for a job.
In Ontario, all high school students must show that they’ve completed at least 40 hours of community service in order to graduate. You can start earning community service hours in the summer before you enter grade 9. You can complete your volunteer hours all at once, or throughout your high school career.
What are examples of community service?
You can give back to your community formally by finding a registered not-for-profit organization to volunteer at, or informally by finding ways to help people for free, like assisting the elderly to cleaning up your local park.
To graduate, you’ll need to prove that you provided a service voluntarily, which is easier to do if there’s a charity or formal organization that can sign your volunteer hours form.
Volunteering can include:
- Serving food at a food bank
- Tutoring students
- Spending time with the elderly at a nursing home or senior centre
- Providing services at a hospital
- Taking care of animals at an animal shelter
- Cleaning a park
- Helping programs at your local library
Keep in mind that not everything you do for free counts as community service. If the activity supports a company that makes a profit, or if it mostly benefits your personal career goals, you cannot log the work as community service.
The following activities DO NOT count as volunteering:
- Co-op placements
- Helping a small business
- Any job that pays
Where can I volunteer?
If you don’t know where to start, look for an organization that’s looking for support through the Ontario Volunteer Centre Network.
If you want to volunteer for a specific place or cause, here are some places you should consider reaching out to directly:
- Public libraries
- Parks and recreation associations (e.g., Friends of Ontario Parks)
- Community centres (e.g., health centres, senior centres, cultural centres, women’s centres, etc.)
- Churches, mosques, temples, and other faith-based organizations
- Animal shelters (e.g., Ontario SPCA and Humane Society)
- Food banks
- Disaster relief organizations
- Human and civil rights groups (e.g., Amnesty International)
- Crisis and hotline support (e.g., LGBT Youth Line, Assaulted Women’s Helpline)
How do I start volunteering?
The best way to secure a volunteering opportunity is by directly contacting the organization or group you’re interested in supporting. Try to find the organization’s contact information and send an email explaining who you are, why you’re interested in volunteering with them, and ask if they have any opportunities.
Sometimes you’ll be able to start right away!
Other times, the organization may have a formal application and even ask you to go through some training. This is usually the case if you’re trying to help vulnerable groups, like at a hospital or through a helpline.
You can also check out Helping Hands, a platform that matches students in Ontario with volunteer opportunities that interest them.