Volunteering on your Gap Year with Lily Viggiano
Updated: May 27
Volunteering is a powerful way to use your gifts and talents in new ways, to build your experience and your resume and to find a sense of purpose. Lily shares how to get a volunteer placement, how to be successful in those placements and how to leverage your experience to connect, grow and become more involved in your community.
What can you get out of volunteer experiences?
Skill development/exposure – You are going to get opportunities that you might not have had access to as part of a paid opportunity. You can take on responsibilities and projects that you wouldn’t otherwise have had access to.
Sense of purpose/community – Learning more about what lights you up and building community connections will serve you well in the future.
Meet new people from all walks of life
Opening new doors beyond the volunteer opportunity – What starts out as a volunteer gig can lead to friendships, mentorship, future employment, new passions
Give you a place in the fight for justice and equity – All of the movements around you need humans to move them forward. Taking up the torch for an issue you are passionate about gives you the power to make the changes you want to see in the world around you.
Ways to Find a Volunteer Position
Connect with various grassroot groups/issues on social media
Other Tips and Tricks
When you are on your gap year, you have more time and space in your life to take on really meaningful and robust experiences. You can sit on a Board of Directors, become a Youth Voice for issues you care about, take on larger projects than was possible when you were a student. You can approach volunteerism in a different way – not just checking in/checking out, but making a bigger commitment to a project or a cause.
If you’re an introvert – volunteering is for you too! Look for behind the scenes jobs, packing kits, outdoors/nature-based, research jobs, tech jobs (ex. Web design, streamline processes, data processing), writing articles and stories. There is also lots of one-on-one placements (Friendly Visitors for isolated community members).
If you end up in a position that isn’t fulfilling every part of you – figure out how to get the most out of the experience, stay curious, people respect the hustle. If you can excel at a basic job that doesn’t thrill you, you can feel good that you are still helping out and in many cases, if you do that job with enthusiasm, the leadership will see your capability and “promote” you to other roles within the project.
Get better at email communication. Be timely and consistent. Don’t have unread messages. This is how the “grown up world” works.
Use the tools that the organization gives you access to!
Say yes to opportunities. Don’t be scared or intimidated. Get in there an learn on the fly, research and execute it.
Challenge the places that you work with to be better. Provide them with a new perspective, make suggestions, think about whose voice isn’t being heard. You can be a voice for those who aren’t at the table.
In life, take the time to heal from your past. Working through any past baggage in your childhood and adolescence will let you have a smoother transition into adulthood. Work with a professional or find out how you can heal yourself so that you are going to embrace your future in a healthy way. Prioritize your mental health.
Lily Viggiano is a passionate, people-first Youth Asset Builder who believes in the limitless potential of young people! During her career she has specialized in youth engagement and volunteerism, working at the Volunteer Action Centre in Waterloo Region as well as with Volunteer Canada on the Canada Service Corps project. She currently works with Our Kids Network in Halton Region building strengths in young volunteers through community involvement and meaningful adult relationships. In her spare time, she loves hiking, crafts and playing with Nala her golden doodle.