I always liked David Cameron. Maybe it was because we're both fans of the rock band, The Smiths, but also (and more importantly) because he tried to use the privileged position of prime minister to appeal to the better angels in our nature with the "Big Society" initiative of his early government. The Big Society ideal was first referenced by Cameron in 2009. In a nutshell, the Big Society philosophy recognizes that a country and its communities are built as much by passionate volunteers, community groups and service organizations as it is by departments of the government.
Each year, 360⁰kids -- an organization that provides a range of services to York Region's homeless youth -- encourages local community members to experience homelessness, just for one night a year. Last March, our group made it through some bone-chilling temperatures. I will do it again this year. For more than 300 youth in a region that's home to large detached homes and flourishing businesses, they've lost count of how many nights they've been homeless. It's an issue that doesn't get enough attention.
As my professional life blossomed so did the work expectations and long hours that I needed to put into my demanding career. It was an inverse relationship in the making: the more I worked, the less time I had for personal things in my life like athletics, friends and relationships. Something had to give. And sadly it was volunteering.
This is what we would change about Canada: Compulsory volunteer hours as part of a holistic service learning model -- in every classroom in the country. Formal instruction should help students learn the root causes of whatever social deficit their volunteer hours help fill. Every school should be granted funding and the resources needed to adapt their own service-learning model.
Uprooted from their lives, sometimes in a violent manner, many refugees find themselves in alien lands with little or no knowledge of the local language or culture and (generally) without friends or family to help a lending hand. Most western governments refer to refugees as "clients" or "customers" when processing their applications. There's little or no recognition of the person behind the paperwork. That's where Canada's Romero House comes in.