Volunteering benefits both volunteer and community, increasing happiness on both ends. And chances are, more Richmondites would do it more if time weren't an issue.
At least those were the results of the latest survey conducted for Big Brothers Big Sisters that found about two-thirds of Canadians would most likely volunteer if they weren't so busy or if only a small time commitment was required.
To remedy this, Big Sisters Richmond is seeking more volunteers for its Study Buddy program to provide residents with an opportunity to volunteer for an hour a week, while also responding to an increasing need.
The Richmond Study Buddy program is one of the few locations currently struggling with a lack of volunteers, according to program coordinator Ivy Chiang. Twenty-seven women volunteer, but 13 Little Sisters still wait for a match.
It's something mentor Abbey Vint has noticed as well, as she only knows of one other volunteer in the city.
"I'm not sure why," she said. "It's a very North American thing, so maybe new Canadians don't know about it. There's also the intimidation factor. For a long time, I was intimidated, but it's not like that at all. They match you with someone at a level you're comfortable with."
Vint has worked with her Little Sister, now 12, for the past four years.
The program began 10 years ago and is unique to Big Sisters of BC Lower Mainland. It blends tutoring with mentoring, allowing Little Sisters to build a friendship and talk about issues they're facing at school that might be affecting their work.
"It generally serves low-income families who are lacking the resources to get a tutor," said Chiang. "Schools have homework clubs, but they don't have that oneon-one attention or connection." Chiang sees many immigrant or refugee families sign up in Richmond, as parents may struggle to help their kids because of a language barrier.
For Vint, her Little Sister moved from China about five or six years ago and needs help with her English, which means often the two go beyond the scope of learning.
"It's been fabulous, I've enjoyed being able to see her grow and come out of her shell," said Vint, who met her Little Sister when she was eight. "ESL teaching involves a lot of talking so we talk about things going on in her life."
Vint was attracted to the small time commitment and structure of the program. It also helps her gain a new perspective from her own day-to-day routine.
According to the study released, 99 per cent of volunteers believe volunteering provides a path to personal satisfaction and happiness.
"It's been a very rewarding program," she said. "They have a great screening process, so we've been really well matched." Volunteers for the Study Buddy program must commit to one hour a week for a minimum of six months. For more information, visit www.bigsisters.bc.ca.