Volunteering is often thought of as something that is time consuming, requires a significant personal commitment, or special skills. The reality is that each one of us has some skill and a small period of time to give back to the community. Here is a list of 10 possibilities where you can make a local impact and make a difference in the lives of people.
1. Start with your local school.
Whether an elementary or a high school, there is always a need for volunteers to do both big and small tasks. Sometimes teachers need a short break just to re-energize, and simply watching children for a period of time can do wonders for their morale. Also, this gives them the confidence that they don’t have to do everything on their own.
2. Personalize your local school effort by tutoring a student.
Depending on the economic area you live in, parents, teachers, and students alike would all appreciate getting tutor services on a volunteer basis. This is an excellent opportunity for college students aspiring to become teachers to get some real world experience. But it isn’t only students who would appreciate the services of a tutor. You can teach English as a second language or basic computer literacy classes to get people comfortable with using technology and the Internet.
3. Coach a local team.
In today’s world of social media where children of all ages (OK, adults too) fail to connect with one another, you presence as a team coach can get people away from their screens and learn how to work as a team. It will also help them avoid being couch potatoes at age 10. This is one of those opportunities where some degree of experience will be helpful, but everybody has to start somewhere.
4. From the young to the old: stop by a senior center.
The need for volunteers at senior centers is generally constant regardless of where you live. An unfortunate reality is that the children of elderly parents simply do not have the time to be in regular contact with their parents housed in senior facilities. A simple conversation is often all it takes to make a significant difference in the quality of life for seniors. It may also be a mutual learning experience, as you share your stories with them, and theirs with you.
5. Become a hospital volunteer.
Unlike many of the volunteer opportunities on this list, hospital volunteers are usually preferred to be on a regular schedule. It depends on the hospital, but many volunteers have positions that are helpful to keep the normal operation of the hospital running smoothly. The simple act of moving a patient from their room to the x-ray area takes time, and if a volunteer can do it that frees up time for a nurse to tend to their professional tasks. If you venture down this road, think of it as a part time job.
6. Prepare and deliver meals.
You probably have heard of Meals on Wheels. They have more than 2.5 million volunteers. But they do more than just deliver meals. They provide a means to check on the safety of people who would otherwise potentially fall between the cracks of the social care system. You don’t need great culinary skills, just a warm heart and a kind word to give.
7. Use your familiarity with local visitor attractions.
If you live in a medium to large city, there are a number of popular places visitors come to see. Your knowledge of a museum or university can be used to help conduct tours that will enhance the reputation of the community and develop your public speaking skills.
8. Community boards.
Oftentimes there is a lack of representation for local community boards because the key people have to prioritize how many boards they can serve on. This is an area where your expertise in a specific area or administrative experience can be very useful – and appreciated. Not-for-profit organizations are especially interested in these services.
9. Start with family.
This was put close to the end because it is often overlooked. Another reason is that it can be the more difficult of the available choices because family relations are often fraught with tension. You don’t have to spend 4 hours with an elderly family member, but simply stopping in to spend some time and planning a graceful exit ahead of time will do wonders for your family relationships and your personal well-being.
10. Charitable yard sales.
This requires some good networking skills and a sense of organization. You can do this on a seasonal basis – during the summer – and raise money for local charities. Cash donations are always welcome, and if you make it an annual event you will find you can raise more money each year the event continues.