7 Types of places to earn 40 volunteer hours for newcomer high schoolers
By: Vivian Nguyen
Published on: November 10 2022
In Ontario, secondary school students (Grades 9 to 12) must complete 40 hours of community service, or “volunteer hours,” to receive their diploma.
There are many benefits to volunteering. For example, volunteering helps to develop new skills that foster one’s personal and professional growth. Volunteering also gives people an opportunity to get involved in their communities. For newcomers, volunteering serves as a great tool for making new acquaintances and friends, as well as learning about how certain services operate in Canada, like food banks.
Although earning community hours in high school is mandatory, volunteering can leave a meaningful impression on both yourself and who you’re volunteering for. Here are seven types of places you can earn your volunteer hours as a newcomer high schooler.
1. Caring for Children
One of the best ways to earn your community hours is to help educate and supervise younger children at the elementary school level. In Ontario, the elementary school system includes age groups between kindergarten (junior and senior kindergarten) to Grade 8.
Many elementary schools seek out volunteers for special playday events and afterschool programming. Peel Lunch and After School Program (PLASP) is the most well-known afterschool program throughout the Peel region and Toronto. You can also offer tutoring services or volunteer at daycares in your area.
In addition to after school programs and daycares, camps are great places to earn your volunteer hours and develop transferrable leadership skills. TAC Sports: Toronto Athletic Camps offers volunteer opportunities for high school students who are passionate about sports. The camp has programs in the Spring, Summer, and Fall. With various locations and services, the YMCA is another great place to volunteer.
2. Food banks
Research reveals that newcomers are more likely to experience food insecurity—the inadequate access to (nutritious) food—than non-newcomers in Canada. You can help expand their access to food by volunteering at food banks.
A food bank is usually a non-profit organization that collects donated food and distributes it to people in need. As a volunteer, you may be responsible for collecting, organizing, and distributing these food items.
3. Cultural events and museums
Canada’s cultural identity is defined by its multiculturalism. Due to this national trait, there are often festivals hosted across the province throughout the year that require volunteers.
Arts in the Parks (Toronto) is currently looking for high school volunteers for their 2023 season. Volunteers will get the chance to work with various organizations and events, including Pride Toronto, and the Toronto International Film Festival (T.I.F.F.).
The First Ontario Arts Centre in Milton also has many volunteer opportunities for you to collaborate with others and support local and international artists. Visit and explore your city’s website to keep up to date on upcoming cultural events.
Libraries are valuable. They are more than just buildings with books in them; they are portals to endless imagination and free resources to the public. These resources include important information that newcomers can benefit from as they look to settle in a new place.
By volunteering in a library, you can develop and improve your organization and interpersonal (communication) skills. Being around books and resources can also lead to a better understanding of Canadian literature and history—literacy skills. Help others find the information they need by volunteering at your local public library or school library.
5. Tree planting
There are many benefits to having trees around. For example, trees provide us shade on sunny summer days and shelter for local wildlife. Unfortunately, many tree populations are at risk in Ontario due to human interference.
According to Tree Canada, “one large tree can provide a day’s oxygen for up to four people.” Therefore, by planting more trees and shrubs, you can improve air quality in an area. Trees also reduce noise pollution and attract tourism in a city.
Join a tree planting initiative to not only earn your volunteer hours, but to improve our neighbourhoods. Ontario Streams in Aurora, Green Legacy in Wellington County, and Richmond Hill’s Community Stewardship Program are just some of the many organizations you can choose from.
6. Recycling and cleanup
Littering is the act of dropping garbage improperly in public places. Toronto has seen an increase amount of litter since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as more people are enjoying the city’s public spaces.
When garbage and waste are not disposed properly, chemicals and plastics can harm the environment. Pollution from improper waste dumping effects plants, animals, bodies of water, and air quality—all of which we humans depend on for survival. Since we only have one Earth, it is important to keep it healthy.
Ontario is a leader in clean, green growth in Canada. Be part of the change by keeping your city clean through volunteer programs with recycling and cleanup projects. Here are a few: Team Up to Clean Up (Hamilton), Clean Toronto Together (Toronto), and A Greener Future (Markham).
7. Helping older adults
Living in retirement homes or long-term care homes can feel isolating for seniors and the elderly population. Volunteering with older adults can make them feel cared for and less alone. You can find a Long-Term Care centre in the Peel region here.
In an interview, Health and Wellness Coordinator/Recreation Therapist, Brandi Mass, expresses the importance of volunteers in their senior residence. “[T]hey provide community connection for our seniors,” says Mass, “providing connections and relationships.”
However, volunteering with seniors does not just benefit them. You, as the volunteer, can also earn scholarships and learn from an older generation by listening to the stories and wisdom they have to share. Working with seniors also provides valuable experience for aspiring nurses and health care professionals. Community Connections volunteers at the Newcomer Centre of Peel (Mississauga) support both newcomer youth and older adults.
Another opportunity to volunteer and communicate with older adults is through pen pal programs, like Sending Sunshine. “Pen pal” refers to a person with whom one befriends by exchanging letters. Sending letters not only improves your writing skills but gives you an opportunity to make a new friend!
Wherever you decide to earn your volunteer hours, know that you are making a difference in someone’s life by doing so. You also don’t need to limit yourself just to one category. If you still don’t know where to start, Helping Hands is an excellent resource for finding a volunteer placement that fits your needs.
For more information about getting involved and volunteering in Ontario, visit ontario.ca.