Ways to make a difference

By Andrew Swan, MLA for Minto

As published in The Times January 09, 2016

For many of us, the New Year is a time to make resolutions — a time to commit to changing the way we do things.

The most common resolutions are commitments to a healthier lifestyle: more exercise, healthier eating, and reducing or avoiding alcohol or tobacco.

I have already noticed lots of new faces at Cindy Klassen Recreation Centre in the first days of 2017, proof that many have good intentions for their personal health.

Other resolutions can benefit not just you (or your waistline) but your community, and cost nothing but your time. If you want to resolve to invest some time, here are a few ideas you may wish to consider:

• Every community centre in central and west Winnipeg can use volunteers. Whether you grew up in Winnipeg and spent your time down at a club, or not, community centres offer sports and other activities to keep youth — and adults — busy on evenings and weekends.

• Our "parka-clad diversity" relies on the goodwill and support of our citizens. The Immigrant Centre helps our newest Manitobans adapt to life in our community. You can call the centre at 204-943-9158 to learn about a wide range of opportunities to get involved. There are also many other ways to assist newcomers being supported by various groups.

• Community organizations, like Spence Neighbourhood Association and Daniel McIntyre St. Matthews Community Association, are always interested in people getting involved in their events. Sometimes citizens even step up to fill vacancies on local boards.

• Most schools in Winnipeg School Division and the St. James-Assiniboia School Division have opportunities for volunteers. I always have a wonderful time disrupting classes during I Love To Read Month; most principals and teachers are more than happy to welcome volunteers on a more regular basis.

• Get (small-p) political! Maybe this is the year you decide to write to, or meet with, your city councillor, Member of the Legislative Assembly, or Member of Parliament, about something important to you. Even one thoughtful letter or email can be noticed and bring about change.

If you will be volunteering with children, you will likely need to obtain a police information check from the Winnipeg Police Service, and a child abuse registry check. These are not a barrier; they are intended to protect our children. In most cases they are free for those wanting to volunteer.

If you want more information on volunteer opportunities (or want to check off your resolution by giving me advice!) call me at 204-783-9860 or email me at andrewswan@yourmanitoba.ca. Happy New Year!