Tapping the potential of P.E.I. seniors

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Sally Cole
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Project advisory committee members are excited about the Seniors Lead project which will be running Thursdays from Oct. 24 to Nov. 21 at the Voluntary Resource Council in Charlottetown. From left are Marie Burge, Lorraine Begley, Sylvie Arsenault and Josie Baker.

The Seniors Lead program offers training to seniors interested in becoming involved as members and directors of voluntary organizations

Sylvie Arsenault is convinced that huge, untapped human resources are waiting to be discovered on Prince Edward Island.

And she can’t wait to identify them.

“We know that seniors give incredibly to their community. We also know that they will often turn down opportunities because they don’t feel they have the skills. We want to help them develop that confidence,” says Arsenault, who is the manager of the Voluntary Resource Council (VRC) in Charlottetown.

That’s why her organization is teaming up with the Cooper Institute to offer Seniors Lead. Funded by the New Horizons for Seniors Program of Human Resources, the purpose of the project is to open up opportunities of participation for seniors as members and directors of voluntary organizations.

“The idea is that seniors that participate in the program will then get to share the knowledge that they’ve gained with the boards of other non-profit organizations. These participants, in themselves, will become the teachers of other community groups,” says Josie Baker, VRC chair/Cooper Institute.

The project will begin by offering seniors 15 hours of training. Topics to be covered include leadership models and communication skills, as well as the voluntary sector, power and decision making in organizations and how to recruit, nurture and retire volunteers to get everyone inspired and involved.

“Then, the seniors-in-training will get to practise their skills by designing guidelines to present to a number of community groups, interested in including seniors in the various levels of their organization,” she says.

Committee member Lorraine Begley believes that many of this population are already actively involved.

“There are seniors, in particular women, who are involved in many local organizations and have done wonderful work there. And this training will allow them to take their skills to a higher level and a wider audience and make them leaders in a broader context,” she says.

The training will also nurture self-confidence.

“The project came about because we saw that seniors were a little reluctant in taking a lead in the organizations that they support. Often people will turn down opportunities because they don’t feel they have

the skills.

“So it is our hope that the training will help people to become more confident in saying ‘yes’, when they’re asked to volunteer,” says Arsenault.

At the same time, there will be an outreach to community voluntary groups to encourage them to adopt ways of engaging more seniors at all levels of their organizations.

“There are lots of non-profit organizations on P.E.I. and they’re always on the look out for competent board members,” she says.

So what advice does she have for people who are considering volunteering?

“Find something you are passionate about. It will inspire you to get involved, and it increases the chances that you will stay involved because it’s something you’re passionate about,” Arsenault says.

AT A GLANCE

Project fast facts

What: Seniors Lead.

When and where: At the VRC, 81 Prince St., Charlottetown on Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 21.

Information: Contact Sylvie Arsenault by phone at 368-7337 or email vrc@eastlink.ca.

Organizations: Voluntary Resource Council, Cooper Institute

Geographic location: P.E.I., New Horizons, Charlottetown

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  • CantFoolMe
    October 04, 2013 - 11:51

    Of course this sounds like a great idea, but personally I think this government is relying too much on the kind heart of Islanders. This place would fall apart if all the volunteers decided to strike, while Wes invests in things like lottery games and hills in Borden, not to mention highways that solve one problem only to create another. Untapped resource? So is child labor.