National Volunteer Week is an initiative of Volunteer Canada that encourages organizations to recognize the contributions of volunteers towards creating a strong, interconnected, and vibrant community. For National Volunteer Week 2023, we are highlighting some of the amazing work that our staff are doing in their communities. In the 2nd instalment of this series, Heather Snyder, our Manager, Member Contact Centre shares about her experience with the Women’s Mentorship Program through the Cooperative Development Foundation of Canada.
Tell us about a volunteer experience.
I have volunteered with the Cooperative Development Foundation of Canada since 2019 as a classroom facilitator for one of their flagship programs – the Women’s Mentorship Program (WMP). This program brings female credit union leaders from around the world together for a unique and impactful leadership experience. Participants first spend time in a classroom setting in Ottawa learning about the Canadian credit union sector, about different areas of credit union operations, and about leadership. After this, they each travel to a host credit union where they spend time doing hands-on learning directly with those credit union experts. They end the program back in Ottawa debriefing their experiences and planning how they incorporate their learning into practice when they return home. My volunteer role is extremely varied – I lead presentations to teach the participants about Canadian culture and credit union topics (HR, strategic planning, risk management, etc), get to accompany them on excursions (visiting local credit unions, the Bank of Canada, embassies, etc) and spend time bonding with them over meals and through other social activities.
What compelled you to volunteer?
I believe that giving your time to an organization is just as important as giving financially. I began volunteering with WMP because I thought it would be a new and fun way to put my credit union experience to use, while also continuing to learn more about the global credit union movement. This turned out to be true but I quickly learned that WMP is also about so much more. I am proud to support an organization like CDF Canada that supports women, communities, and cooperatives around the world. The cooperative movement is about people helping people and I think that is something we should all support!
Describe the feeling volunteering gives you?
If I had to choose one word, I would say “fulfilled”. I never imagined that working at a credit union would allow me to participate in programs like this. I feel incredibly lucky that I have spent time getting to know so many courageous and inspirational women. WMP participants (and volunteers) may all come from such different cultures and have such different life experiences but this program ultimately highlights all of our shared experiences, creating deep connections that extend beyond the time spent together in Ottawa. It is so rewarding to see these women return back to their communities, empowered and ready to create change with their new network of support around them.
What advice would you give someone who was thinking about volunteering?
Be open minded and ready to learn. There are always learning opportunities that come from volunteering, especially when a program that has a global reach like WMP does. Also, take time to connect with the people you meet while volunteering. I have learned so much, both personally and professionally, through these relationships. You never know what door will open in the future through these connections and networks.
Do you do any other volunteering in addition to the role we are highlighting in the above questions?
I have volunteered with the New Hamburg Mennonite Relief Sale in a variety of roles since I was a child. I was a member of the planning committee for several years and now work with the treasurer to coordinate the payment options for the auction sales.