Volume 96, Issue 85
Wednesday, March 12, 2003

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Volunteering is about the community: study

By Anthony Lafratta
Gazette Staff

As it turns out, virtue is intrinsically good.

A recent study conducted at Western has revealed that people are motivated to volunteer from the desire to help their community.

Alison Doherty, associate professor of kinesiology, based the study on the testimonies of people who volunteered for the 2001 Canada Summer Games, hosted by London, St. Thomas, Woodstock and Grand Bend. Doherty said the study focused on the motivating factors for volunteer involvement and on how the experience of participation influenced people's views on volunteering in general.

"Those people who were involved [in planning events] years in advance were motivated by the opportunity to contribute their specific skills, whereas those people involved in the implementation of events were motivated by personal enrichment, [and] the chance to meet people in the community and develop new skills," Doherty explained.

"Being associated with sports was a far less important reason for becoming involved. I think this means people would come out [to volunteer] for different events," Doherty said, noting she was quite surprised by the study's conclusion.

"It's important that people's skills be given due consideration and respect. Volunteers need to feel they're part [of the project] and be able to see the impact of their work to get something out of it," she said.

Kevin Viner, a retiree and volunteer at the 2001 Summer Games, said his skills were sufficiently utilized, and he was pleased with the time spent volunteering.

"[Overall], it was a rewarding experience to feel part of the community and be acknowledged as a volunteer. It made the community feel very tight-knit," Viner added. A 28-year resident of London, Viner said that he believed permanent and long-term residents of the community might have felt slightly more inclined to become involved.

Third-year economics student Steve Bernier indicated that several factors affect the plausibility of doing volunteer work. "I understand this may sound vain, but I am a full-time student with a job, so both time and not being able to get around [the city] easily are issues," he explained.

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2002 THE GAZETTE