As the holiday season approaches, I feel the need to talk about responsible consumption. I did this last year in a tranche de vie article I shared about how we manage our children’s gifts. This article drew a barrage of questions from parents on how we got our kids to come around to the idea of a single gift—to some parents, it seemed unthinkable. What did we do? We simply explained the concept of wants versus needs!
This year, I asked myself how I could deepen my children’s reflection on consumption. It occurred to me that going back to the basics was the best approach! How can you consume if you don’t have enough money? How can we make choices and rank our needs from most to least vital? These notions are still tough to grasp for children their age (7 and 9 years) who thankfully have never had to do without, but I firmly believe it’s by stimulating their thinking as early as possible that these issues enter into their consciousness.
Two birds with one stone
It was while pondering the above that I got the idea to introduce my children to volunteering, and to find a cause that would help them understand the reality of those who have to choose what they can buy. The virtues of community involvement are many. I don’t know if children their age fully appreciate this but, regardless, I told myself it would make for a fun and enriching experience. Above all, they would get to see the reality of organizations that work hard to achieve their mission. We decided on Richmond-based Tabliers en folie (in English, crazy aprons) that supports food self-sufficiency and healthy eating among the disadvantaged. And boy did we hit two birds with one stone (or, rather, many with one stone!): in addition to learning more about this organization’s work, we made desserts that will be served to the organization’s members at a Christmas party, worked as a team, practised math concepts involving units of measurement, indulged ourselves in licking the whisks of the electric beater and scraping the bottom of the sucre à la crème pot, made new friends and, ultimately, spent time as a family. We gave ourselves time. We took the time to give our time!
The benefits of giving time
Numerous studies have shown that volunteering enhances our well-being and health in several ways: it reinforces self-esteem and self-confidence, brings you a general feeling of peace and well-being, reduces stress and improves your mood.
According to the latest study by Statistics Canada, nearly 13 million Canadians, or 44% of people aged 15 or older, have done some form of volunteer work. The number of hours completed corresponds to the work volume of around 1 million full-time jobs. That’s awe-inspiring!
At Cascades, we’d like this statistic to be 100%; specifically, the company would like each of its 10,000 employees in North America to donate at least one hour of their time to the community each year. It’s one of the objectives in the Sustainable Development Plan. Finances are commonly a key need among community organizations, but if the opportunity presents itself, many appreciate a helping hand in the form of time. My grandmother often quoted author Germaine Guèvremont’s words, “A little help goes a long way!” In fact, a new platform exists that matches organizations with volunteers and is called: Simplyk (available in Quebec and Ontario for the moment). It’s important to choose a cause that calls to us, as volunteering should be a pleasant activity.
I truly hope these life experiences in responsible consumption, generosity and sharing will be ingrained in my children’s hearts and minds. I hope that these values will endure and influence their future choices, and that they will question their needs, give their time and be generous. When I think about it, the time we spent at Tabliers en folie will have a greater payoff for us than for them!
 http://quebec.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/19/benevolat-sante_n_3465035.html (in French only) http://www.lapresse.ca/vivre/societe/201109/19/01-4449184-vivre-plus-longtemps-en-devenant-benevole.php (in French)