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A volunteer YMCA fitness instructor leads a group class working out with dumbbells


April 24 to 30 is National Volunteer Week. As in previous years, we are paying tribute to our amazing, dedicated and passionate volunteers to mark the occasion. As a charity, the YMCA is deeply grateful to all who volunteer their time to help us achieve our mission of strengthening the foundations of community.  

Though the past two years have been a time of constant change and adaptation, our volunteers have continued to make a difference throughout the pandemic and will continue to be an important source of support for those engaged in Y programming as public-health concerns are lessened. Here are just a few ways in which they make an impact every day.   

1) Mentoring youth to help them reach their full potential  

Having a positive role model can make a lasting difference in a young person’s life. This has been clearly evident in the Plusone Mentoring program, which matches at-risk youth with a mentor to work together for six months to a year. During a time of great uncertainty and stress, the Plusone Mentoring program has been a safe and grounding space for its youth participants. Our volunteer mentors have remained committed to forging positive connections with their mentees. They’ve helped their mentees feel supported, more confident and engaged with their community.  

2) Motivating people to stay healthy and active   

Did you know that the instructors who lead our group fitness classes are volunteers? It goes without saying that the Y wouldn’t be the same without them! During the pandemic, our group fitness instructors continued to guide Y members through fun and challenging workouts, both online and at our centres of community. Their impact goes beyond fitness — instructors have helped our community feel connected and have been a source of positivity during a challenging period.  

With the provincial restrictions on group fitness classes now lifted, we are pleased to be welcoming back our members and volunteers to gather for a workout once again! But for those not yet comfortable exercising among a larger group, check out on-demand YMCA at Home fitness videos.  

3) Helping youth become strong, positive leaders  

Volunteer facilitators help shape young minds through the YMCA’s Youth Leadership Development program. By sharing experiences and leading meaningful workshops, volunteers of this great initiative help guide participating youth on their path to becoming positive leaders and role models in their communities. Themes and topics typically touched on through the program include Health & Wellness, Truth & Reconciliation, Local Environment & Climate Action, Diversity & Cultural Awareness and much more. Throughout the pandemic, the facilitators have led sessions focusing on the importance of self-care and community outreach. They have provided the continued support and guidance that youth have needed throughout this time.  

4) Making newcomers feel welcomed and supported  

Moving to a new country has its challenges and our Immigrant Services volunteers certainly recognize that. Our volunteers go above and beyond to ensure newcomers feel welcomed and supported, and this was especially true during the pandemic when making in-person connections was difficult or impossible. They have been social- and community-resource navigators inside and outside the virtual classroom, remaining connected with participants via WhatsApp group chats and working to meet participants in person (socially distanced, of course) who didn’t know anyone locally and needed community connection. At all times, our Immigrant Services volunteers provide positive coaching and mentoring to newcomers, share opportunities to stay active in the community to participants of all ages, are present when mental health challenges arise, and are the eyes and ears for program facilitators. The list goes on and on!  

5) Providing expert leadership and looking out for the YMCA’s best interest  

Last but not least, we want to recognize the incredible volunteers on the YMCA of Greater Vancouver Board, the YMCA of Greater Vancouver Foundation Board, the YMCA of Greater Vancouver Properties Board and the What Really Matters Capital Campaign Cabinet. Their expertise and guidance have meant that our YMCA has been able to adapt and evolve over the years, as well as navigate the challenges presented by the pandemic head on.  

Final Word  

There are so many more ways in which our volunteers make a difference every day. We are deeply grateful to everyone who dedicates their time, expertise and goodwill to help make the Y a safe and welcoming place for everyone. Thank you to all of our volunteers — you are incredible and your work is truly appreciated!  

Would you like to join our team of YMCA volunteers? Click here to register and view available opportunities on our volunteer portal!