Kids Rhyme Competition
by Rob Howatson

According to Statistics Canada, immigrants are less likely than native-born Canadians to volunteer with a charitable or non-profit organization. (39% versus 49% in 2010.) But someone forgot to tell Monika Garg. The 28-year-old housewife arrived in Vancouver from Delhi last year <2012> and within two months she decided to volunteer her time to improve her Collingwood community.

At first, she found it challenging to meet people, although having a two-year-old daughter helped. “I was able to meet many families through my daughter’s playground friends,” says Garg.

The mother decided to build on those connections by hosting a fun, kids competition. She applied for a Vancouver Foundation Neighbourhood Small Grant and received $350, which was used to buy snacks for guests and modest gifts for the children. The event was held at the Collingwood Neighbourhood House and 40 people from the area attended.

Kids competed in three categories: personality, dance and quiz. They recited poems and short stories, and told jokes.  There were  also games and other fun activities for all participants.

Garg felt that the event was successful in forging relationships between neighbours and building the children’s confidence. The project also gave her confidence, which she will need to integrate into Canadian society.

Volunteering, be it with a Neighbourhood Small Grant Project or any other imitative, offers many benefits to new comers. Behnam Behnia, Associate Professor of Social Work at Ottawa’s Carleton University outlines some of the rewards in a 2009 essay. < > “Immigrants undertake volunteer activities to improve their economic, social, and emotional well-being. They volunteer to increase their employment opportunities and prospects. Volunteer work allows them to acquire new skills, gain Canadian experience, get letters of references, network, use their skills, improve their language proficiency, and gain a better understanding of Canadian workplaces. Moreover, volunteering gives them an opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, feel useful, and get distracted from the losses caused by settlement and migration.”

Behnia goes on to point out that immigrant volunteering patterns are changing.
“There is an increase in the rate of volunteering among recent immigrants as well as a narrowing down of the gap between them and the established immigrants. According to a 2004 survey, recently arrived immigrants are almost as likely to volunteer as established immigrants.”

That is no surprise to Monika Garg.