This past year has been difficult and seen many changes, but volunteers remain constant and are still working hard to do good in their communities! This National Volunteer Week, HeartPress #BrokersOfGood is celebrating 22.7 million volunteers across Canada by featuring stories from local volunteers in action. This week we spoke with Paige who is a volunteer with Shawnigan Lake Museum.
Describe Your Role at the Shawnigan Lake Museum
I perform a great diversity of tasks such as organizing displays, participating in fundraisers, researching newly arrived artifacts, and updating the museum’s gift shop inventory. I also make my own educational material in the form of videos for patrons to watch, artifact descriptions for them to read, and write articles in the local newspaper called the Shawnigan Focus. Before COVID-19, I also greeted visitors and discussed Shawnigan history with them.
Did you need Any Special Skills or Past Experience?
I think the greatest asset needed to volunteer at a museum is simply an interest in history. I do a lot of research and writing, which requires patience and attention to detail. Investment in the subject matter is important in making the material engaging—you won’t make other people interested if you’re not interested yourself. Strong social skills are also important. Talking to visitors, teaching them about the artifacts, and hearing their own stories make the experience more personal and memorable for both the visitors and the volunteers.
How Did You Find Out about Shawnigan Lake Museum?
I was looking for volunteer opportunities on my school’s message board and learned that the museum was looking for a student to join their team. Since joining in April 2019, I have regularly volunteered at the museum.
Why Did You Decide to Volunteer?
I wanted to volunteer at the museum because I have long been fascinated with history. I loved the idea of immersing myself in something I loved and being able to share it with others. As an amateur writer, I also liked the opportunity to exercise my creativity and writing abilities.
Any Challenges/Changes of Working in 2020/2021?
Since the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions, I have temporarily stopped talking to visitors. I spend my time in the museum office, working on research projects or administrative tasks. While I’m still able to do many of the same things I did before COVID-19, being unable to interact with people is certainly something I miss.
Did Anything Surprise You?
I am still amazed at the connection I’ve developed with my community and its past. I have spent most of my life living in Shawnigan, yet only in the past two years have I become well acquainted with its vibrant and fascinating history. Everything from the street names to the local convenience store has an interesting story that was only revealed to me once I began volunteering. Reading about history in textbooks is one thing, but spending your days surrounded by it and handling the tangible remnants of it, makes it feel all the more real.
What Advice Would You Give to Others Looking to Volunteer?
Choose a position that interests you. Volunteering looks good on a resume, but more importantly, it is fostering a community connection and the sense of contributing something meaningful. If you’re doing something that you love, and are surrounded by people who share and support your passion, you’ll leave a stronger impression and encourage others to get involved.