Halton Hills Leadership Program
By: Amber Siddiqui HYI Volunteer
July 30, 2021
As a long-time volunteer, I understand the importance of youth leadership and involvement. Young people are bright, energetic, and dedicated - they bring a whole new perspective to volunteer projects and community initiatives. Connecting with young people is incredibly important and ensuring that they have easy access to volunteer opportunities is crucial to youth involvement - so when Lily Viggiano and I were invited to give a presentation to the Town of Halton Hills Youth Leadership Program, we were ecstatic to be able to share what we have been up to with the Halton Youth Initiative! The presentation took place on Thursday, July 22nd, 2021, and was given to 15 participants registered for the program ranging in age from 12-16 years old.
Lily Viggiano, the project coordinator at the Halton Youth Initiative and lifelong volunteer, shared what volunteering means to her during the presentation: “Volunteerism has filled my life with purpose, incredible memories, connected me to amazing people and built skills that have served me in my personal and professional life.”
I have been volunteering with the Halton Youth Initiative since July 2019 with Lily, and during the presentation, I also shared what volunteering means to me: “Being a volunteer means that I get to spend my time doing good for others and my community, which provides me with a natural sense of accomplishment. Being an HYI volunteer, in particular, has provided me with a sense of pride and identity.”
Apart from sharing sentiments about the importance of volunteering in our own lives, Lily and I shared the Halton Youth Initiatives virtual transition in mid-March 2020 with the youth. When we first got word that schools would close for at least two weeks, volunteers were tense, with everyone nervous about what was to come. We worried about our volunteers, their family, friends, and loved ones. So we pivoted to virtual immediately after March Break. Tackled new technology, creating space for people to come together, to talk, volunteer and connect with people in uncertain times. We were officially “borderless” - and volunteers were able to choose their teams based on interest, instead of postal code.
Even throughout the pandemic, the Halton Youth Initiative has prioritized a strengths-based, relationship-focused environment. Lily and I made sure to emphasize this and provide youth at the presentation with a snapshot of the Halton Youth Initiative's goals, volunteer responsibilities, and how they could register to join the team if they wanted to.
In the coming months, the volunteers of the Halton Youth Initiative are hard at work developing an Equity Team 101 toolkit and related conference, creating communication pieces on social justice issues like Islamophobia, creating positive youth hangout spaces virtual and in person, and much more.
Although volunteer meetings, projects, and initiatives all eventually come to an end, the memories that are made on these teams last forever. It is crucial to youth well-being and for community development that young people in Halton understand the importance of voluntarism and are provided with opportunities to volunteer beyond merely the scope of the 40 hours required for graduation. As Lily said near the end of the presentation, “In elections, we vote just once a year and are rarely involved in many of the decisions that happen after that, but with volunteering - every time you get involved in your community is a vote for what kind of place you want to live in”. It is time for us to reflect: what kind of Halton do we want to live in?