You would have to live in a social vacuum to be unaware of the numerous opportunities that exist to volunteer. Regardless of your age, experience, education, you can be helpful to some organization or cause. In some cases, you do not even need to leave the comfort of your home!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, on average for the last five years, 28% of Americans have volunteered annually. That really doesn’t sound like a lot, considering the myriad of opportunities available. You do not have to travel to an elephant refuge in Thailand for an opportunity to volunteer – though you could through Global Volunteer Network.
It is more likely that you will coach, referee, collect, prepare or distribute food, mentor youth, provide management assistance, teach, tutor, or fund-raise, as these are the top activities report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Many Americans rose to the occasion to volunteer in New Orleans after Katrina, and when the oil spilled countless people mobilized. Fortunately, organizations now have the internet to assist their call for help. Facebook pages and websites popped up overnight to help distribute information and to match eager helpers with the right organization in the Gulf Coast. VolunteerMatch even has “virtual opportunities” that allows volunteering from the comfort of your home on internet-based projects.
Even very young children can help in their communities. We recently profiled Ripple Kids, an incredible organization that supports kids doing good in very interesting and innovative ways. Although this site is for kids and about kids, we adults can appreciate the value of giving back through the eyes of children who see a need and determine a solution. We can also turn our kids and grandkids on to this great resource, and have their community efforts highlighted.
Many sites exist to facilitate matching the volunteer with a project that interests them. The Get Involved! search engine, sponsored by the Corporation for National and Community Service and powered by VolunteerMatch, is one of the largest and most advanced on the Internet.
The Youth Volunteer Corps of America is specifically geared toward kids 11 – 18 years old. YVC offers solid foundations of volunteer opportunities that enrich young people, and at the same time, develop a lifetime commitment to community service.
Perhaps you have done your part with a religious organization, a sport, hobby, cultural or arts programs, youth or health services, or just general community service, and you are ready to explore the opportunities abroad. Voluntourism is a growing segment of the travel industry. We have reviewed Voluntourism.org, where you will find much more information on this growing trend.
Whether you help in your own back yard or elsewhere in the world, know that your services are needed, valued, and a key ingredient to staying relevant and living well.