Gain Valuable Experience By Volunteering in Canada
By: Shaun Pett
When Jamel Touati moved from Tunisia to Canada, he felt what any newcomer feels: out of place. Between balancing his family, school and a part-time job, he needed to connect to the community somehow. Enter folk music. Touati volunteered at the Ottawa Folk Festival because he heard concerts were free for volunteers. Working with friendly colleagues and enjoying the performances made him feel a part of the community. "It helped me to feel not so new. It helped me to understand about how some things work in Canada and how important volunteers are. Canada has a lot to offer and as a new Canadian I hadn't realized how much of that comes from volunteers."
The best thing to do when settling in a new country is get involved. University and college clubs are great for this. But if you want to experience Canadian culture, meet friends, practice English and make contacts, then look into volunteering for one of the hundreds of festivals that take place across Canada. Your experience may even supply you with a Canadian reference that will be a big help when searching for an apartment or applying for a job.
Pick something you're interested in. If you're in Montreal and like electronic music, check out MUTEK. Studying at Brock University in St. Catharines and want to learn about wine? Sign up for the Niagara Wine Festival. And if you're in Calgary you can't truly know the city without experiencing the Calgary Stampede.
Festivals need all kinds of help, from the box office to welcoming guests to community outreach to translation, there are endless opportunities to learn. The Toronto International Film Festival is one of the biggest in the world and the fast paced environment is the perfect place to gain some Canadian customer service experience. The benefits of volunteering are unlimited, says Tammy Parent, Director of Volunteer Services at the Ottawa Folk Festival. "Volunteers are part of the full experience and also have the opportunity to build new networks, friendships and skills that all can lead to job opportunities and beyond."
And for those that are becoming Canadian citizens, there's a little cultural bonus for when you pass the test. The Institute for Canadian Citizenship offers a free one-year pass to over 1,000 cultural attractions across the country. That's big savings and a lot to discover.
A good resource for festivals across Canada: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_festivals_in_Canada