Yes, normal girls like yourself can find ways to volunteer and give back to the community. It’s a myth that you have to be a saint to volunteer, and another myth that you have to give up loads of your time. There are so many ways to get into volunteering, many of which are fun and will enhance your CV and life skills. Imagine if 50 women read this article today and then decided to volunteer 1 hour a week for a year in their communities… that’s a staggering 2,600 hours of volunteering in the community. So whether you decide to help your elderly next door neighbour or volunteer overseas, get active in your community by choosing one of my 7 ways to volunteer.
1. Volunteer Overseas
Volunteering can be glamorous! Choose a project overseas and have the adventure of a lifetime whilst helping others. There are numerous ways to volunteer; projects range from teaching English as a foreign language in Tanzania to conservation work such as caring for orphaned orangutans in the Borneo Jungle. My advice is to pick a project you are truly passionate about and ideally have the matching skill set. For example, if you are already a doctor you might want to choose to give free medical care in the Himalayas, and if you are an artist you would be better suited to choosing to paint and decorate a new school. There are numerous companies that organize volunteering opportunities overseas, and for many of these you will need to raise funds for prior to your trip. Alternatively if you wanted to volunteer on a longer, large scale project check out VSO (vsointernational.org) which utilizes volunteers to fight poverty in developing countries.
2. Youth Organizations
You don’t need to go round the world to make a difference to others – for me the best type of volunteering is actually boosting your community through local volunteering. One popular route is to help out with a Guides or Scouts, but there are numerous youth organizations you might prefer from church groups to sailing clubs. You don’t need to be an expert to get involved and most groups will jump at the chance to have an additional helper on board to run activities. The best bit about being a volunteer for a youth organization is that you get to take part in all the fun activities such as camping or playing softball, plus you will get the additional feel-good buzz of being a mentor for the next generation.
3. The Oldies
I would like to think that when I’m old and grey I won’t be on my own and forgotten about. Why not take the time to connect with the older generation? Some old people don’t get many visitors and would really value and appreciate even a small portion of your time. So pop in for a chat, collect their groceries or deliver their papers – every little bit helps.
4. Make the Most of Your Existing Skills
Many volunteer organizations and community groups would really value a person with a trade to help their work. If you are an accountant why not offer to keep track of the finances for the local St. Johns Ambulance, of if you’re a website designer, offer to help design a community group’s webpage. Perhaps you consider that you are not a people person – that doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to offer. Think about what you're good at and see if there is some way you can utilize these skills to help others. From trustees to mini-bus drivers there are many different volunteer jobs out there.
5. National Charities and Non-profit Organizations
One of the most important factors to finding a volunteer opportunity to look for something that means something to you. There are hundreds of national charities that do fantastic work for others, so you just need to pick one that you value, so that it will be rewarding and worthwhile to you. If you have lost someone you love to an illness such as cancer, you will see purpose and fulfillment in helping to raise funds or provide support for people going through something similar. Volunteering can nourish the soul and help put meaning in your life, so pick wisely.
6. Medical Support
Be your very own Mother Teresa by providing medical support and care to others. Great examples include volunteering for Make-a-Wish, which organizes once in a lifetime trips for sick children, or McMillan Cancer Support which provides support to families who are affected by cancer. You may also want to contact your local hospital to see if they have any specific volunteer positions.
7. Fly Solo
There is often a misconception that if you volunteer you have to help an existing charity or organization. But there are millions of ways to help others from setting up your own community club, helping a neighbour's kids with their maths homework or fundraising whilst taking part in a cycling event. There is no right or wrong way to volunteer, simply pick something that works for you.
Volunteering can seem like a foreign scary word to many of us, but giving back to the community doesn’t need to involve a huge lifestyle change or go against your normal interests. If Angelina Jolie can find the time to be a United Nations Ambassador, whilst also being a successful actress and mother, surely we can all find the time to do something big or small in our own communities?