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Engaged or Disengaged: Young People's Conceptions of Volunteerism

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The civic disengagement of youth has been a notable concern for policy makers and academics in Canada and around the world. In fact, today’s young people have been often described as the “civic deficit” generation, resulting in calls for new programs in civic education and engagement. But according to Ottilia Chareka, Ph.D., assistant professor at St. Francis Xavier University and a specialist in citizenship education, many of these new programs have been implemented with little or no prior research on young people’s conceptions of participation. In this article for e-Volunteerism, Chareka presents the results of a relatively small but unique study, one that looks at how native-born Canadian and recent African immigrant youth perceive volunteerism. The results may surprise the skeptics. As Chareka reveals, these youth understand volunteerism as a duty, an ability to make a difference, a way of achieving personal gain and gratification - but as a decidedly non-political process.