KCR: Volunteering enriches our understanding of the world

These columns are contributed by the KCR Community Resources

As a geographer Jennifer Pinks has always been fascinated by the world, other cultures and people’s journeys to new places and new paths in life. This passion has informed her volunteer activities over the past 40 years, both in Canada and when she was living abroad.

“Volunteering in different countries and here at home, provides opportunity not only for me to help others, but also to learn about our global community,” says Jennifer. “I have learned a lot about different cultures and ethnicities through my volunteer experiences. These are first-hand accounts and stories (that you can’t get in a book!) from people whom I have volunteered with over the decades. Collectively they have enriched my understanding of the world.”

Jennifer’s hometown is Brampton, Ontario but she has called many places across Canada and the globe “home”. Before coming to the Okanagan with her husband in 2020, Jennifer called Halifax, Nova Scotia home for 20 years. Jennifer has also lived overseas for more than 10 years in Malaysia, Thailand and Venezuela.

“During my university days and early career days, I volunteered primarily for various environmental initiatives,” reminisces Jennifer. “While living overseas, I volunteered at different organizations including a Women’s shelter and a Women’s health not-for-profit in Malaysia; at UNESCO and a Population Demographics Centre in Thailand; and supported a rural children’s initiative in Venezuela. For 20 years in Halifax, my volunteer work was focused on supporting new Canadians and foreign students in learning and practicing English.”

“My husband and I have been on a bit of a journey since leaving Halifax in late 2019, trying to figure out where to retire,” adds Jennifer. “The combination of moving about and COVID restrictions meant my ESL interests were on hold for much of the past year until joining KCR in the fall of 2021.”

Jennifer encourages everyone to get involved and volunteer.

“As I often say about my volunteer activities – its a win-win! I can help others with their English, even incrementally, and that supports their new path here in Canada. It’s totally worth it and keeps me involved,” Jennifer says enthusiastically. “One of my favourite volunteering memories took place in Halifax while working with a group of Chinese students. Following the completion of their course and before returning to China, we hosted a traditional East Coast lobster boil – a first for them all! Their approach to bib wearing, shell cracking, digging for lobster meat, etc. was so much fun and smile worthy; a real cross-cultural experience!”

If you are interested in finding a cross-cultural experience, or looking for a way to give back, you will have a chance to interview a whole host of non-profit organizations about a perfect fit for you at the upcoming Okanagan Volunteer Fair on September 17 at Parkinson Recreation Centre. It will be the 25th annual Fair and a fantastic way to get to know about the many non-profit organizations looking for volunteers here in the Central Okanagan. For more information about the Fair, contact Ezra at or check us out online at

Dorothee Birker is the communications and development coordinator for KCR Community Resources. If you are interested in sharing your volunteer or organizational news, please contact Dorothee at

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