The volunteer paradox: in giving, we receive

With Signs of Summer, Festival Kicks it Up a Notch, Makes Bold Promise

At long last, the sun is out and Ottawans can trust that summer is on its way. Atop the list of the relieved are undoubtedly the festival fiends that flood the nation’s capital every year. But long before the attendee’s plans are made, the festival organizers are already hard at work to realize those expectations of summer joy. There are a million decisions to make and actions to take, but come opening day, a major factor that remains to the success of this massive operation: its venerable volunteers.

From every walk of life—the high school kid looking for their hours, the undergrad building on skills, the seasoned senior who knows the true value of service to others—festival volunteers are an inspiring cross-section of our diverse community, and their commitment is what we have to thank for the excitement we feel at this time of year. Nonetheless, “Try to thank them, and anyone of them will tell you that they’d do it again in a heartbeat, after some rest of course!”, says Sheba Azzan, a local festival coordinator, adding that “Everyone has their reason, whether it be the feeling of accomplishment, the forging of friendships, or the personal development that comes with being part of something greater than ourselves.” For the truly practical, it should also be noted that volunteering is, in fact, scientifically proven to benefit our overall health.[1] Whatever the motivation, the only way to understand this strange paradox of giving to receive is to get out there and do it!

(Photo: SparkOntario.ca)

For those who couldn’t see this coming, here’s the shameless plug…

One such opportunity to get involved, while kicking off the summer right, is at the Tim Hortons Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival at Mooney’s Bay Park and Beach, June 20th-23rd. This non-profit festival, the largest of its kind in North America, sees upwards of 75K visitors over just four days, and features huge concerts, beach bars, family entertainment, and competitive international races—free for all spectators. Of course, this feat is only made possible due to the hundreds of committed volunteers they recruit every year. With more than 20 volunteer areas to choose from and thousands of hours to fill, there are roles for anyone and everyone. If you’re interested in learning more, head to dragonboat.net/volunteer.

If what’s written above is true, there’s nothing to lose, and everything to gain, in giving it a shot.

Happy volunteering to all the fantastic people that make summer in Ottawa the place to be!

[1] Sneed, R. S., & Cohen, S. (2013). A prospective study of volunteerism and hypertension risk in older adults. Psychology and Aging, 28(2), 578-586.

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