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Community Matters

Give Back to the Community Together

June 26th, 2013

By: Ashley Kowalewski

It’s no secret; we have a fast paced lifestyle in Wood Buffalo, but as I see it, this hustle and bustle goes along with living and working in the growing industrious region. Volunteering as a family is a fun and unique way to spend some quality time together.While making the effort to find balance with work and family can be difficult, I believe that volunteering together should be a priority for families in FortMcMurray. It’s time together that is outside of the home, away from the same ole day-in-day-out routines and it offers an avenue to make some lasting memories outside of regular activities and holidays.

Aside from being fun and family focused, family volunteering is great because everyone can participate. Family volunteering is inclusive of all members of the crew, and many modern families extend beyond traditional members like mothers, fathers, and children. Family volunteering is appropriate for foster families, single parents and can include the whole extended crew, the step parents, step children, grandparents, and grandchildren; as well it can also include close family friends and mentors. A lot of people say that the idea of family volunteering sounds great, but a common response is that; ‘We all have so many varying demands from school, work and other extra circular commitments, that as a working family we just cannot find the time to volunteer together.’

Contrary to this objection, volunteering together tends to be more flexible than people think. Once you pick your cause, and determine your availability, you can generally pretty easily figure out how you can participate. A family can volunteer on one single day, during a festival or event or during school vacations. With an array of socially driven organizations in our community the opportunities to volunteer can really be tailored to match your family’s values and availability. Before you begin, just ask yourself, what matters most to your family, is it health, animals, or the environment, or anything else.

Family volunteering for me was about seizing the real life teaching moments and offering my daughter some context for value system building. It was a parenting tool to help with instilling leadership and self esteem building. There are never enough opportunities for me to teach her that offering a helping hand where it’s needed should not be considered work, but should be something that is rewarding in itself. To me the idea of incorporating family volunteering into our routine was about making the effort to slow down and connect with each other and the community, while also offering some parent/child context for life learning. Recently I took my 6 year old Ava to volunteer with me for the day at MacDonald Island Park in preparation for the Northern Lights Health Foundations Annual Spring Fling. My daughter assisted me to place event programs on all of the 500 seats at the event. We talked about how the event was a fundraiser to support health care locally, she understood that she was doing something small to help ‘sick people’. At the end of the day, and even at the end of the week, the sense of self pride and accomplishment that I saw in her face as she told anyone who would listen that she was ‘helping out for health care’ just melted my heart.

She is currently planning a lemonade stand for summer where the proceeds will go towards helping sick kids in the community. As a parent I could not be prouder of her accomplishments, and as a young professional, I could not happier to that in some small way I am helping to inspire the next generation of Wood Buffalo community leaders.

Ashley Kowalewski has a Bachelor of Public Relations and is completing her Masters in PR from Mount Saint Vincent University, Toronto born and Cape Breton raised Ashley lives and works in Fort McMurray with her daughter Ava.

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