The right to give

The women gathered every weekday in the small room beside a church pastored by a Canadian Oblate priest on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.

The women gathered every weekday in the small room beside a church pastored by a Canadian Oblate priest on the outskirts of Lima, Peru.

A table provided a surface for them to prepare the vegetables.

A two-burner gas stove on the only other table held enormous soup pots where the ingredients went when ready.

There were no chairs to be seen. This was a space for work.

The smiles on the women’s faces and the light banter, though, revealed that they didn’t regard their common work as drudgery. The ‘olla comun’ or common pot that brought them together was the Peruvian style of a soup kitchen.

With a modest contribution from participating families and some support from the Peruvian government and overseas donations channeled through their parish church, they cooked a daily meal for their families and neighbours.

Their voluntary effort provided a real tangible benefit for the community. The hot meals they would carry back to their modest homes that climbed up the arid slopes of Comas nourished bodies but also the hope for a better tomorrow.

I don’t think I will ever forget their smiles.

A few years later, I visited a crowded office that occupied an upper floor of a nondescript building in the core of Budapest, Hungary.

It had taken me a number of inquiries to find it. It was still months before the Berlin Wall would be breached in November of 1989.

The Hungarian Committee for UNICEF had slowly knit together a network of volunteers.

They had begun to shape a civil response to the needs of children in poorer areas of the globe.

Authoritarian governments of whatever stripe, recognize that community-based initiatives weaken their control.

They allow people to respond to unfulfilled needs. Their actions erode confidence in the myth of an all powerful state.

The emergence of non-profit groups like the Hungarian Committee for UNICEF signaled the evolution of a vibrant new society in that country.

Volunteers play a crucial role in our Yukon communities as well.

Tens of thousands of hours are freely given each year here in support of hundreds of organizations that impact on all aspects of our lives from healthcare to education, sports to the environment.

The scores of volunteers who fanned out across Whitehorse in the annual In the Spirit of Caring church food drive earlier this week, provided an excellent example of the crucial role volunteers play here.

They collected and sorted the thousands of pounds food needed to sustain the Maryhouse and Salvation Army emergency food programs over the summer.

Across Canada the 2004 Survey on Giving Volunteering and Participating found that 11.8 million of our fellow citizens gave nearly 2 billion hours of voluntary service to their communities.

Over 161,000 charities and nonprofit corporations and an estimated 870,000 unincorporated community-based organizations depend on them according to the Ottawa-based Volunteer Bénévoles Canada (www.

However the survey also noted alerted us to the fact that  “super” volunteers, those 11 per cent who contribute 77 per cent of all volunteer hours,” are aging.

Next week is National Volunteer Week.

It honours the crucial contribution of our volunteers but also challenges us to ensure that the right to give is passed on to our youth.

The continued development of strong, healthy and democratic communities demands this of us.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Team Togo member Katie Moen sits in a sled behind a snowmobile for the ride from the airport to Chief Zzeh Gittlit School. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Coming together: How Old Crow became one of the first communities in the world to be fully vaccinated

Team Togo and Team Balto assembled with a mission to not waste a single dose of vaccine

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. If council moves forward with bylaw changes, eating and drinking establishments could set up pop-up patios in on-street parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Patios may be popping up in Whitehorse this summer

City considers program for downtown restaurants and bars

The Yukon Coroner's Service has confirmed the death of a skateboarder found injured on Hamilton Boulevard on May 2. Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News
Whitehorse man dies in skateboarding accident

Coroner urges the use of helmets, protective gear, while skateboarding.

The new Yukon Liberal caucus poses for a photo during the swearing-in ceremony held on May 3. (Yukon Government/Submitted)
Liberal cabinet sworn in at legislature before house resumes on May 11

Newly elected MLA Jeremy Harper has been nominated as speaker.

The Yukon Wildlife Preserve’s baby bison, born April 22, mingles with the herd on April 29. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Yukon Wildlife Preserves welcomes two bison calves

A bison calf was the first 2021 baby born at the Yukon Wildlife Preserve

A map provided by the Yukon government shows the location of unpermitted logging leading to a $2,500 fine. (Courtesy/Yukon government)
Man fined $2,500 for felling trees near Beaver Creek

The incident was investigated by natural resource officers and brought to court.

The site of the Old Crow solar project photographed on Feb. 20. The Vuntut Gwitchin solar project was planned for completion last summer, but delays related to the COVID-19 pandemic pushed it back. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Old Crow is switching to solar

The first phase of the community’s solar array is already generating power.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
One new case of COVID-19 in the Yukon

Case number 82 is the territory’s only active case

Flood and fire risk and potential were discussed April 29. Yukoners were told to be prepared in the event of either a flood or a fire. Submitted Photo/B.C. Wildfire Service
Yukoners told to be prepared for floods and wildland fire season

Floods and fire personelle spoke to the current risks of both weather events in the coming months.

From left to right, Pascale Marceau and Eva Capozzola departed for Kluane National Park on April 12. The duo is the first all-woman expedition to summit Mt. Lucania. (Michael Schmidt/Icefield Discovery)
First all-woman team summits Mt. Lucania

“You have gifted us with a magical journey that we will forever treasure.”

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

Whitehorse goings-on for the week of April 26

The Yukon Department of Education in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. The department has announced new dates for the 2021/2022 school year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Yukon school dates set for 2021/22

The schedule shows classes starting on Aug. 23, 2021 for all Whitehorse schools and in some communities.

Most Read