Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Study- Impacting the Way We Interact with Youth & Adults

Most have never heard of the ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study which followed over 17,000 people and studied the impact of childhood trauma (e.g. divorce, abuse, neglect) on adult health. The results are fascinating. We work with hundreds of teachers that we think would benefit from learning more about the ACEs study.

The number of ACEs a person has are strongly associated with behaviors such as: smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, promiscuity, severe obesity, depression, heart disease, cancer, chronic lung disease and shorter lifespan.

Having 4 adverse childhood experiences was associated with a seven-fold (700%) increase in alcoholism, and double the risk of being diagnosed with cancer.

An ACE score over 6 was associated with a 30-fold (300%) increase in attempted suicide. The statistics are staggering and this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Another study found that students with at least 3 ACEs are 3 times as likely to experience academic failure, 6 times as likely to have behavioral problems, and 5 times as likely to have attendance problems.

10 types of childhood trauma were measured in the ACEs study – 5 were personal and 5 were related to family:




  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Emotional abuse
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Mother treated violently
  • Household substance abuse
  • Household mental illness
  • Parental separation or divorce
  • Incarcerated household member

The trauma experienced can even alter a child’s or adult’s brain architecture (see image of three-year-old brains). The more types of trauma experienced — the higher the ACE score — the more likely the addiction or negative behavior.

This same study contains a seed of hope: all of the above-mentioned risk factors—behavioral as well as physiological—can be offset by the presence of one dependable and caring adult. It doesn’t need to be the mother or the father. It doesn’t even need to be a close or distant relative. More often than not, that stable, caring adult is a teacher.

To learn more, here are additional resources:

Paper Tigers (documentary)
Set within and around Lincoln Alternative High School in a rural community in Washington, Paper Tigers asks the following questions:
– What does it mean to be a trauma-informed school?
– How do you educate teens whose childhood experiences have left them with a brain and body ill-suited to learn?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)


Huffington Post (interesting read)
The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study — the Largest Public Health Study You Never Heard Of

How to Sustain Volunteer Efforts After Returning Home

You’ve just returned home from a once in a lifetime volunteer opportunity abroad, but find yourself looking for a way to continue giving back. What can you do? You may feel as though your efforts are best put to use abroad, but there is a great deal of help and support to offer your community after returning home.
Volunteer Cork Board

#1. Get writing

Submit an article to a local newspaper or story idea to a local TV station.
Chances are, local news outlets will be very interested in what they call a “human interest” story about your experiences abroad. Particularly if you have great photos or videos to accompany the story. Newspapers are always looking for guest writers. You can submit a story to their editor and if they are interested, they will publish it. They may make some changes to your article, but that’s common and nothing to be worried about. You may even be offered compensation for your article, which you can donate back towards the cause you’re raising awareness for.

For visual media, such as a local TV station, a reporter may come to your home and interview you for stories about your experience abroad. This is a great chance to showcase the organization you volunteered with, what you did while you were there, what others can do, and why you’ve chosen to remain involved after returning home.

#2. Document your trip

Make a documentary or photo collage of your trip. In this day and age, most of us have smartphones or digital cameras with lots of memory. Getting great pictures and videos of your trip is easy to do.

You can put something together and upload it to YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or other social media platforms. Whether it’s a quick 30-second video, a collage you put together on your smartphone, or a more in-depth story using complex video editing options, you can still communicate the importance of the cause you’ve volunteered for and continue to raise awareness and funds for them.

3. Organize a fundraiser

Before you get started, understand that this could be a big undertaking. See if friends, family members, or teachers would be willing to help you organize a fundraiser. The size and features of the fundraiser are completely up to you. You can contact the organization you volunteered with to see if they offer support for volunteers who are putting together events.

Some ideas for fundraisers are:
– Silent auctions
– Walks/runs
– Charity barbecues or dinners
– Garage sales

Here are some tips for planning a successful event:

  • See if local businesses, or friends and family members who own businesses, would be willing to donate a prize for you to give away or auction off.
  • Take time to think about the perfect location – You want it to be easy for people to get to, but not be too crowded or busy. Also, consider things like parking, accessibility, and access to restrooms.
  • Advertise online and with flyers leading up to the event.
  • Create an event hashtag and promote it on social media.
  • Contact local media to see if they would be willing to share details of the event, either in a story, or on their event calendar.
  • Make sure you have lots of extra hands to help on the day of the event.
  • Be sure to keep a positive attitude.

#4. Volunteer on a local level

Many national organizations have smaller chapters or offices on the local level. There are usually a limited number of staff members at these offices, so ask whether they need assistance with upcoming events, administrative tasks, or on their planning committees.

#5. Spread the word

Those who know about your volunteerism abroad may not realize that issues often remain long after your return. Continue to update your friends, family, and co-workers about what’s happening with the project or cause you volunteered with, and inform them of ways they can help.

Whether it’s a monthly newsletter, social media post, or phone call/text, the bottom line is that you can bring awareness to the cause by keeping people informed. It may help if you stay in touch with your organizer, or fellow volunteers too. This way, you can share photos, updates, and see the progress – All great things to share in that monthly newsletter.

#6. Write a blog

Writing a blog is a great way to spread the word, like the last point, but with a wider audience. You can reach people worldwide through a blog and may even notice some of the same people coming back for updates, or some who have donated time or money themselves because of your blog.

Starting a blog can be intimidating, but setting goals for yourself and your content at the outset will help ease you into the process.

Some of your blog goals might be:
– To blog once per week.
– To use your blog to make connections in a safe manner on a local, national, or global scale.
– To raise awareness of the project and its changes as time goes on.
– To highlight volunteers, or people affected by the organization’s work.
– Keep track of the number of views, likes, shares, comments to better understand the type of content your audience likes.

Remember, it’s always a good idea to have someone proofread your blog, particularly if you’re going to promote it on a larger scale.

You might decide to do one of these things, or a combination of them. There’s no right or wrong way to give back after you return from abroad. Do what suits you best and understand that any form of continued volunteerism is greatly appreciated by the organizations you’re volunteering with.

The pros and cons of short-terms vs. long-term volunteering

There are many advantages to volunteering in your community. Whether it’s a one-off event, or a long-term position, giving back through volunteerism shows dedication, and highlights your attitude towards the well-being of others. In this day and age, many employers consider volunteering “real” work experience, as these opportunities are both valuable learning experiences and require a great deal of dedication.

Volunteer Cork Board

One-day Volunteering


  • Many volunteer organizations have one or two big events each year. Though these are huge fundraisers for them, the events usually surpass the amount of manpower and capabilities of staff members. This results in a need for support from community volunteers.
  • These short-term opportunities allow you to diversify your experience with several different positions across many events or fundraisers. You may find yourself helping with registration at one event, then at a prize booth at another.
  • Volunteering at a few one-day events each year will help you achieve your community service hours quickly. You may even decide to continue volunteering long after your hours have been completed.
  • One-day events take less time from your schedule, so these types of positions can be great for busy people. Volunteering for a few hours on a weekend is do-able for most and still allows you to give back to the community.
  • Volunteering at one-day events gives you the opportunity to meet dozens, if not hundreds, of people. It is a great chance to network and make valuable connections in the community – something that may be helpful for you down the road.


  • When a large event has wrapped up, there may be no more work for the volunteer until the following year even though a volunteer may be interested in further contributing their time throughout the year.
  • It can be a little overwhelming if you’re new to the role and not very familiar with the organization you’re volunteering for. Be sure to take advantage of orientation sessions and know who to ask about the organization and your role when you have questions.
  • There is limited ability to apply your expertise and skills in a short-term position or to learn new skills.
  • There is limited time to get to know people in depth. Consider exchanging contact information to meet new acquaintances again after the event has wrapped up.
Long-term volunteering


  • Usually, long-term positions, such as committee or board positions allow you to fulfill a “role” such as Sponsorship Coordinator or Food and Beverage Coordinator. As you gain experience in the community, you may take an interest in a particular organization or role, and ask to join the group of volunteers who plan the events. You will be responsible for the success of this aspect of the event. You may even be interested in being a Volunteer Coordinator, ensuring positions similar to ones you had volunteered for in the past are filled.
  • You can learn a lot by volunteering on a committee or board. Even though you’ll likely have a dedicated role, you will still hear the updates from others, and perhaps even give feedback or useful suggestions to help them out. For example, when the Treasurer gives an update about the budget, it’s a good opportunity to understand the financial side behind the effort you’re volunteering for, or if the Volunteer Coordinator mentions they are struggling to recruit enough volunteers, you may have helpful suggestions for them.
  • Long-term volunteering looks great on a resume. It shows dedication towards your community, a strong work ethic, and an eagerness to expand your knowledge and skill base. Additionally, these opportunities may help to fill gaps in your resume, such as school terms, or if you’re in between jobs.
  • You have an opportunity to develop meaningful relationships and get to know people on a deeper level when you meet often during volunteer shifts, at events, etc. Often, those friendships grow beyond your role and blossom regardless of whether you are volunteering or not.


  • Committee or board work can be a significant time commitment, upwards of a few hundred hours per year, depending on how much work you take on. Make sure you know what your limits are, and communicate them with the Chair of your committee or Volunteer Manager. Because these roles often have a greater level of responsibility, it’s important the work does not prevent you from fulfilling your other responsibilities, such as work, school, family, and friends.
  • Depending on the nature of the work, you may begin to develop a strong emotional connection. Most times it is not a bad thing, but can be if left unnoticed. Be sure that you don’t bring any emotional baggage home with you. If the work becomes overwhelming, talk to someone you can trust about your difficulties and think of ways to help offset the stress – even if it means finding a different volunteer opportunity.
  • You may notice increased expenses if you are required to do a lot of driving, or purchasing items on behalf of the organization. Be sure to ask if these costs can be reimbursed, such as by submitting mileage, or expense claims.

Regardless of whether you’re able to volunteer for a few hours on a weekend, or long-term over the course of years, the greatest part about volunteerism is the satisfaction you feel when you know you’re making a difference. Many people don’t realize the time and effort that goes into volunteering (e.g. putting events and fundraisers together). Only through volunteering with an organization, can you appreciate the effect that volunteers have. Many organizations only have a small number of staff members due to budget restrictions, and support from volunteers like you is essential to their success.


8 Creative Ways to Show Volunteer Appreciation

Gratitude is the most powerful thing in the world. It’s said that it’s not happy people who are thankful but rather it’s thankful people who are happy.


Yet, recent studies have painted society as losing its civility, especially in the workplace. It seems that some people have confused niceties with inefficiencies and compliments with ulterior motives. And in our nonprofit space, this will not do.

Let’s put the gratitude back into our attitude. Volunteer appreciation should be the most important mandate we have. If it isn’t, there’s no time like the present for a nice change of pace.

Want to make sure your volunteers know you’re grateful for their service? Follow these suggestions and you’re sure to make them feel like the sun shines just for them!

… To continue reading our latest contribution to Volunteer Match, please click here.

Share via social media:
8 Creative Ways to Show Volunteer Appreciation by @CharityRepublic on @VolunteerMatch 

The Human Side of ROI: How to Qualitatively Measure Your Corporate Volunteer Program’s Impact

The era of employees clocking in at 9 a.m., completing their daily tasks, and then heading to physically clock out – and cognitively check out –  at 5 p.m. is over.

Quantitative and Qualitative

Work is intertwined with home life, and home life is carried into work each day. Technology has contributed to blurring the lines, but that seems to be the way we want it. Why? Maybe because more individuals are investing in their employer and taking pride in their organization’s brand – people actually want to be at work.

A huge contributor to this trend is employee volunteerism, which has risen steadily over the last decade. It’s a known fact that if you want the best talent you have to offer the best work environment, and lately, that means building an Employee Volunteer Program (EVP). People want to believe in what they do and more often than not this means giving your employees a chance to give back to their communities.

… To continue reading our latest contribution to Volunteer Match, please click here.

Share via social media:
The human side of ROI and corporate volunteer programs by @CharityRepublic on @VolunteerMatch

How teachers are using digital tools to truly personalize learning

Nov 4, 2015

Excerpt from Canadian Business, by Peter NowakIllustration by Matt Murphy - Canadian Business

…School boards are similarly seeking out Charity Republic, based in Kitchener, Ont. The company makes an online tool for digitally tracking work placements, internships and volunteer hours. The idea revolves around replacing paper-based tracking methods, which can easily be lost. Like Sesame, Charity Republic creates data that can shared between teachers, students and parents.

‏“We found students weren’t graduating because they’d lost a piece of paper,” says founder Popy Dimoulas-Graham. “When they see students not graduating because of paper inefficiencies, schools are definitely drawn to using products like ours.”

‏Dimoulas-Graham had previously worked as an online course facilitator in epidemiology for the Public Health Agency of Canada before starting Charity Republic in 2010 with an eye to helping charities manage their volunteers. The business only started growing three years ago, after she realized the software could plug an existing hole in the education system.

‏Thirty-five school boards and universities in Ontario are now using Charity Republic’s software, with more coming soon in Alberta and British Columbia, she says. The company, which still deals with charities as well, is up to five full-time and two part-time employees.

To read the rest of this article, which was originally published in Canadian Business, please click here.

Standing out from the crowd: Six ways to help your organization get noticed

I am a volunteer, and I am a donor. I donate to Christopher and Dana Reeve’s charity for spinal cord injury and research. Why? Because my father has a spinal cord injury.

See the connection? It’s personal for me, which makes it fairly easy for me to choose where my time and money is spent. But there are several other charities doing similar work, why not those? Well, because along with my dad, Superman was my hero growing up.

But it isn’t personal for everyone and not everyone’s childhood heroes suffer traumatic injury like mine did. A majority of people donate for other reasons, such as seeing a charity that makes a big impact or one that gives back directly to their community.

… To continue reading our latest contribution to Charity Village, please click here.

Give Before You Get: Volunteering and the Case of the Unemployed Millennials

If you’re young, say 18-24 years old, getting a job is hard. Actually, it’s beyond hard. More like landing a rover on Mars hard.

If you’re a recent secondary or postsecondary graduate, the odds are you’ve already learned this fact for yourself.

According to the most recent statistics, Ontario’s youth unemployment rate has spiked to 17.1%, while the rest of Canada’s youth unemployment rate has come in at about 14.5%. The alarming news is that this doesn’t seem to be due to a lack of jobs. In fact, out of 1,425 students and youth surveyed, only 37% cited a lack of jobs as the perceived reason for their unemployment.

To read the rest of this article, which was originally published on Charity Village, please click here.



Volunteer Coordinators: The Unsung Heroes of the Non-Profit World

If you were asked to name 5 charities and non-profits off the top of your head, could you? Most people probably could. If you were to pick one charity and then name 5 positions crucial to its success, could you? Maybe. You’ll probably get a few: Executive Director, Communications Manager, Volunteers… Uhm… Yeah, it’s tough for most people – and that might be a bigger problem than you realize.

Why? Because despite existing to serve, charities and non-profits still require the same things a for-profit business does – marketing plans, advertisements, staff (or in this case, volunteer) management software, scheduling software, etc. – but most people aren’t aware of that fact.

So how do charities and non-profits ensure these goals are accomplished?

The answer is by hiring the one person you’re least likely to hear about (yet charities and non-profits are completely lost without): the Volunteer Coordinator / Manager. Their job sounds exactly like it is; they’re in charge of organizing volunteers, matching them to positions, scheduling dozens (or hundreds) of positions, ensuring volunteers are qualified, tracking hours and activities, and communicating with their volunteers and volunteer supervisors. Unfortunately, often they’re doing this from a basic spreadsheet or an inadequate piece of software.

Could you imagine managing a database of 250+ employees with a spreadsheet? Staffing positions, matching appropriate skill sets to appropriate opportunities, engaging your staff to make sure they’re productive and happy, all from a spreadsheet document?

What if, on top of all that you had to create and track each individual’s profile, achievements, qualifications, and then communicate with all of them and maintain notes on their status and progress? You might be thinking that it can’t be done, yet this is the reality so many hard working Volunteer Coordinators face every day.

“But isn’t there some kind of software for volunteer management?”

Yes, there is. The problem isn’t that solutions don’t exist, it’s that there are a variety of obstacles preventing Volunteer Coordinators from using appropriate software to enable them to be more efficient in their duties.

For starters, several organizations have purchased Donor Management Software – which is useful for managing donors, of course. The problem comes when Volunteer Coordinators have to ‘make due’ with just that program. Donor Management software, or, in some cases, HR and Customer Relationship Management software, is designed to engage and manage donors through tracking who donates what, how much, and how often, or which employees log their hours on which days respectively. Although most of these programs attach another module for ‘volunteer management,’ it is typically nothing more than a glorified replica of donor management – so we’re back at square one.

Would an Executive Director manage all of this with a substandard software or a spreadsheet doc? Not. Too. Likely.

Furthermore, Donor Management software is designed to manage campaigns based around raising funds and finding donors. This is so, so important, don’t get us wrong, but it is not the right tool for volunteer engagement and management.

There are lots of warnings that volunteer engagement is facing a decline and needs to be reimagined in order to fix the emerging issues that could start snowballing into a significant problem for the non-profit sector.

It’s no secret that without volunteers many of the charities and non-profits we donate our time and money to would cease to exist in the same capacity they do currently. As volunteers are so incredibly vital, ensuring they’re properly matched, engaged, and utilized to an organization’s maximum potential is crucial to charitable programs being successful.

It’s important then to realize that donor management software, necessary as it is, is not the appropriate tool to circumventing a volunteer engagement problem. Volunteer Coordinators work hard, as hard as anyone, so shouldn’t they be using the right tools to perform their jobs at the highest level possible?

But do Volunteer Coordinators really feel that they need better software? Well, let’s look at some results from a survey we conducted of over 60 Volunteer Coordinators and what they had to say.

Volunteer Survey 1 Volunteer Survey 2

This paints a pretty clear problem. Volunteer Coordinators, even when using software, are seriously lacking the appropriate technology required to fix their main concerns: communicating, reporting on activities, scheduling, and tracking volunteer progress and activities.

Since Donor Management, HR, and CRM software aren’t meeting these needs, it’s time to empower our Volunteer Coordinators with the technology that will support them in their daily endeavours. It’s clear that their position is one requiring an intelligent individual deserving of respect and admiration, so we think it’s time they are given all the right tools to keep being their awesome selves.

Is Forcing People To Volunteer A Good Idea?

forced volunteering 2

Since 1999, mandatory volunteer service has been a requirement for Ontario high school students to graduate. The concept has received a lot of attention (and backlash) in the US, and while there has been some discussion and controversy in Canada, it hasn’t been felt at quite the same level.

Still, whether forced volunteering is a good idea or not is definitely worth further exploration. Luckily, there is a lot of information on the subject ranging from credible sources like StatsCan, to not quite as credible sources like (que the segue).

“Forced to volunteer. That is the Orwellian notion to which contemporary liberalism has sunk.” writes Thomas Howell for

Ok, so maybe that is a little (a lot) far-fetched and suspiciously argumentative, but it is one of the first Google search results if you search “Is forced volunteering good?.” But then again, if you Google “Mr. Howell” he appears alongside other similar shock-comment pundits such as Ann Coulter.

On some level he may be on to something, though. After all, there is intelligent debate surrounding the area of forced volunteering.

“To call mandatory community service ‘volunteering’ is a problem because then we begin to confuse the distinction between an activity that is freely chosen and something that is obligatory and perhaps not always rewarding. Volunteering should be something you choose to do because you want to do it, not because somebody made you do it.” says Linda Graff, President of Linda Graff & Associates Inc., an international consulting firm based in Dundas, Ontario.

Forced Volunteering 1

Another influencer in the volunteer sector shares similar thoughts, as Maclean’s writes:

‘“The mandated nature means this is not really volunteering,” says Ruth MacKenzie, former president and CEO of Volunteer Canada. She lumps high school hours in with community service orders and other court-mandated sentencing requirements. The fear among those in the charity business is that forcing kids to volunteer in high school might turn them off the concept for the rest of their lives.”

But what about the positives?

Research at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont., reveals no negative impacts from forcing students to provide a week of free work for worthy causes. “Making it mandatory doesn’t undermine any of the positive aspects of the program,” says politics professor Steven Brown. “It doesn’t poison the well.”

There is also significant research that proves the younger an individual becomes involved in volunteering the more likely they are to become lifelong volunteers.

forced volunteering 4

After all, the idea of showing youth a part of society they may not discover on their own doesn’t seem like a bad idea. Do you remember what you were like as a teenager? I do.

I was self-absorbed more than I’d like to admit and it wasn’t until I had to fulfill my volunteer hours that I realized there was a whole world that existed outside the expanse of my own ego.

I started volunteering for Elmira’s Robin in the Hood festival by helping children with special needs experience the medieval festival in all its knightly glory. This experience directly led to my spending 8 years as a Developmental Service Worker and is the reason I still continue to volunteer with individuals with cognitive and developmental delays.

Isn’t this type of push-towards-action a good thing, then?

“Without community service, we would not have a strong quality of life. It’s important to the person who serves as well as the recipient. It’s the way in which we ourselves grow and develop,” , says Dr. Dorothy Height, president and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women.

Is forcing students to volunteer different than forcing them to learn proper language or science skills? These are skills which help define attitudes that they will carry with them through the rest of their lives.

forced volunteering 5

But high school doesn’t just prepare students for further education; it equips them for social interaction, problem solving in all aspects of life, and helps to direct students down a lifelong path – career or otherwise.

One theory suggests a correlation between service learning and higher academic gain. The idea here is that the transferable skills learned in a practical setting during a volunteer opportunity can be taken back to the classroom and applied in new, previously not thought of ways.

We’ve mentioned in other articles the documented health benefits associated with volunteerism. Isn’t there an expanding obesity epidemic amongst our youth? Wouldn’t we want to encourage different and varied ways for our youth to be active and healthy, then?

One area that many sources fail to recognize is the direct benefit to an individual’s employability if they list volunteer experience on their resume.

For example, volunteering gives students access to training and implementation of work-related skills as well as interaction with people from other walks of life. We all know that gaining employment in today’s Canadian job market is tough and often relies heavily on transferable skills that are not necessarily related to the position’s requirements.

You want to be a graphic designer? Good for you – that’s admirable – but guess what? Thousands of other people know the same software tools you do. What sets you apart? Is it your personality or experiences? The answer is likely yes; but how do you show an employer all your experience or the depth of your awesome personality on a resume they’ve barely read, or in a 30 minute interview? It’s certainly tough, if not completely impossible.

One sure-fire way is to share your volunteer experiences. Employers know that the more someone volunteers the less of a slug they will be. Volunteers are also typically associated with buzzwords like ‘self-starter’ or ‘motivated’ – you know, the things all employers want their employees to be.

Another highly unrecognized benefit of high school students volunteering is that many scholarships and bursaries have volunteer hour requirements, or, at the very least, seek students who are active participants in their own community. If you want access to certain scholarships, you need to meet these requirements.

Post-secondary isn’t cheap and many are going to attend without financial support from family, so why not seek ways to help yourself out?

There are 662,446 students set to graduate high schools in Ontario this year. If even one third of those students grasp the importance of giving back through volunteerism, then that means there will be 220,815 students going into the volunteer ‘workforce’ post-graduation. If each of those graduates goes on to give even a measly 10 hours per year, that’s over 2 million volunteer hours from one cohort year of graduating students.

Imagine how high they will lift their communities with that amount of effort?forced volunteer 3