Volunteers: A Vital Link in Community Engagement

It’s difficult to overstate how important volunteers are to GGP. Volunteers help students get caught up with language learning and practice when they’ve fallen behind in their English classes. They call to check-in on clients feeling isolated at home. They help children and youth improve their English, math, and science skills over the summer to be more successful in the fall. They coax shy newcomers out of their shells at Coffee & Conversation. They serve on our Board of Directors to provide guidance and governance to Global Gathering Place.

Still, beyond all of these contributions that make GGP’s work possible, volunteers have another key role: building bridges between newcomers and the wider Saskatoon community.

Many volunteers are shaped by their volunteering experiences at GGP, taking lessons learned and relationships formed into their various circles, including families, social networks, jobs, faith-based organizations, and schools. Through sharing about their volunteering, volunteers help countless people learn about newcomers in Saskatoon and the complexities of setting up a life here. Sharing from the heart about a meaningful cultural exchange can even cultivate greater empathy, curiosity, and inclusion.

Volunteering in a cross-cultural environment has so many benefits that the University of Saskatchewan’s Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and St. Thomas More have implemented this type of service learning into their programming. These colleges recognize that what students learn through volunteer placements at GGP enriches their lives and future careers, as well as the broader community.

Given the valuable links between volunteers, GGP, and the community, we enthusiastically offer volunteer development days. The training objectives are to build volunteers’ cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of the issues that affect GGP clients, as well as practical skills to help volunteers thrive in their roles. In addition, these workshops provide an opportunity for volunteers to share their experiences, ask questions, and connect with one another in a deeper way.

This summer’s workshop series offered information and best practices for examining culture, interrupting judgement, and acting from a place of greater awareness:

  • Workshop #1 focused on the social determinants of health, how they relate to services and programs offered by GGP, as well as how volunteers can be more aware of these determinants.
  • Workshop #2 was a condensed version of the cultural competency presentation provided to GGP’s Cultural Health Navigators. Volunteers learned about components that make up culture as well as what practising cultural competency looks like. Cultural humility was also discussed in terms of how it improves cross-cultural relations.
  • Workshop #3 provided an overview of different immigration statuses and discussed how GGP supports clients with higher needs, as well as how volunteers can be most effective while assisting Government Assisted Refugees.
  • Workshop #4 built on the cultural competency workshop by exploring cross-cultural communication, its challenges as well as useful techniques. This workshop will also provide an overview of how English is taught to newcomers in Canada and GGP’s English programming.

In addition to training volunteers, GGP also offers these workshop topics to the broader Saskatoon community. If you would like to arrange a presentation for your group or organization, please contact media@globalgatheringplace.com or 306-665-0268.

We are so grateful to each and every volunteer for their contributions, whether at GGP, over Zoom, or as ambassadors out in the community!


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