Volunteer Empowerment Toolkit

volunteer toolkit cover collage lighthouse icon The Volunteer Empowerment Toolkit is a product of youth volunteers engaged in the Youth Peer Program (then called, Youth Peer Transformation) working with youth at-risk.

This project, funded by the Canada Volunteerism Initiative of Volunteer Canada, took place between September 2003 and March 2004 with EPIC as the managing agency.

Over twenty of the volunteer tutor/mentors working with the students in the Youth Peer Program further volunteered for this project. They compiled a binder full of information, tips, and resources that could be useful for anyone who works with at-risk youth, including future volunteers at Youth Peer. The tutors picked topics that they were interested in or felt the need to know more about following group brainstorming sessions led by Volunteer Resource Developer, Rachelle Wilson.

Here is an excerpt from the Introduction to the toolkit written by Rachelle who oversaw the development and production of the product:

As a staff person who helps to keep things running smoothly for the volunteers working with youth at-risk, I am often approached with questions from volunteer mentor / tutors regarding how to react to certain situations. The volunteer training addresses many of the ways in which volunteers should respond to challenging situations with youth at-risk. Staff felt that many of the special issues that came up with individual youth at-risk could be further researched by the volunteers.

After the initial mentor / tutor training sessions were completed, I organized several group brainstorming sessions with the volunteers, where concerns over the most frequently recurring topics were voiced. Each tutor chose a topic of interest to research and report on, with the goal of developing a standardized guide that could be used by volunteers in many situations where youth are involved.

It was our hope that we would be able to ensure that volunteers in these situations would feel empowered and be better able to assist youth in crisis. It was also felt that this Toolkit could be a great tangible resource for mentor / tutors by providing contact information for locally accessible support services such as Help Lines and other community services.

This manual was created for the benefit of both the volunteers and the youth they work with. We considered it extremely important to gain perspective from the volunteers as they are the ones in direct contact with the youth and their issues. We provided the volunteers only with a sample framework to encourage point form instead of long narratives.

We believed it was crucial that the topics be presented by the volunteers themselves. In this way we felt that the perspectives would be presented in a realistic manner that other volunteers would be able to relate to, as opposed to something more clinical. Simply put, we wanted something made by volunteers for volunteers.

The Toolkit will be made available to volunteers from a wide variety of organizations. It is our hope that the Toolkit will allow centres like ours to improve volunteer interaction with at-risk youth and help the youth volunteers to feel valued and valuable by providing them with a compilation of their own practical learnings.

The volunteers wrote on the following topics:

    • Alcoholism
    • Anger Management
    • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
    • Body Image
    • Bullying
    • Child Abuse
    • Conflict Resolution
    • Cultural Sensitivity
    • Cutting & Self Mutilation
    • Depression
    • Dyslexia
    • Eating Disorders
    • Gender Identity – Gay
    • Gender Identity – Lesbian
    • Marijuana Abuse
    • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
    • Parental Abuse
    • Peer Pressure
    • Positive Role Models
    • Pregnancy & Safe Sex
    • Racism
    • Schizophrenia
    • Self-Esteem
    • Suicide

The volunteers were given a template to work from so that all of the subjects are covered in a similar way. They were asked to follow this basic outline and to provide the information through easy-to-read and use, bulleted points:

    • What volunteers should know about the topic
    • What kids bring up about the topic
    • What volunteers are concerned about that kids don’t bring up
    • Additional tips for volunteers
    • Youth resources and contact information
    • Topic references

In addition, the toolkit provides a Code for Volunteer Involvement and Job Design guidelines informed by the Youth Peer Program experience and meant for other community agencies designing a program for volunteers. These were written by EPIC volunteers, Barry and Nancy Waldman.


Any person or organization interested in obtaining a copy of the Community Volunteer Empowerment Toolkit should contact EPIC by email at epiccharity@gmail.com

Articles about our toolkit.
Volunteer Canada ezine article
Cape Breton Post article


volunteers, toolkit
front row, left to right:
Janice McDonald, Jocelyn Lewis, Allyson Dunlop, Meghan Wilson, Amanda McPherson, Suzanne Ranni
back row, left to right:
Naomi McLean, Shannon Oldham, Amanda Burt, Vanessa Brown, Maggie Mombourquette, Brenda Moore, Lyndsay Hollahan, Meaghan Grant, Emily King, Craig Ryan

not pictured: Cathy MacInnis, Beth Andrews, Sara Beth Unsworth

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