Volunteering is a great way to help others, meet new people, develop useful skills, and learn about other cultures. Unfortunately, the problem that many would be volunteers run into is finding the opportunity that is a good fit for them.
A student seeking a gap year volunteer experience, a busy office worker who wants to spend time helping a worthy cause on the weekends, and a family that wants to spend their yearly vacation volunteering are going to have three different sets of requirements as they look for volunteer opportunities.
The good news is this: All people, with the desire to give their time to others in need, can find a volunteer opportunity that is right for them. Let's explore five volunteer opportunities, one of which is sure to be a good fit for any willing volunteer.
This is a great organization for individuals with a variety of talents and abilities. Volunteer opportunities with the Red Cross can include many of the following:
Helping blood donors fill out paper work
Serving cookies, juice, and other snacks during blood drives
Performing clerical duties at a local Red Cross office
Recruiting other volunteers and blood donors
Taking specialized training and venturing to disaster zones when the need arises (obviously, this requires flexibility of school and/or work schedules)
Since the majority of work is not physically demanding, this is a great volunteer opportunity for the elderly or the disabled.
Local museums are always in need of volunteers to staff a variety of positions. Volunteers may be asked to work at the museum information desk, contact individuals and businesses for donations, act as tour guides, or even perform light maintenance and cleaning duties.
Folks who demonstrate particular skills or a strong passion for the museum's mission may be able to become tour guides or docents. Volunteering at a museum is a great way to learn more about subjects such as art, history, and science. Many museums often reward volunteers for their hard work by offering them free or reduced price admission to their exhibits. Such opportunities are especially well-suited for energetic high school and college students, as well as the adult who has education and background experience in the subject focus of the museum.
Young adults between the ages of 17 and 24 who are looking for a gap year volunteer opportunity should consider signing up for AmeriCorps or its sister program FemaCorps. Individuals who go through the application process and are accepted into the program will spend ten months living with other volunteers, traveling around the country, and helping a variety of communities and individuals in need. Duties performed by AmeriCorps/FemaCorps recruits might include:
Removing invasive plant species from national parks
Building a community center for underprivileged children
Fighting wild fires
Teaching disaster response classes
Helping victims of natural disasters apply for federal assistance
Building playgrounds in inner cities
Tutoring grade school children
Cleaning creek beds, rivers, and other waterways
Volunteers working for these organizations are provided with a bi-weekly allowance, uniforms, food, and room and board. When they complete their ten months of service, volunteers are given several thousands of dollars in funds that they may apply to future educational expenses. Young people who have a strong sense of mission to be of service to those less fortunate and in need, will value their experiences for the rest of their lives. And having taken a gap year in the pursuit of such a mission, is an invaluable addition to a future resume.
Habitat for Humanity is a great organization that builds homes for needy families in exchange for that family's sweat equity investment in assisting with the construction of that home along with the construction of homes for other needy families.
Habit for Humanity volunteers are often given the opportunity to spend time building homes, and performing clean up and minor repair duties. This great organization often works with other community organizations and schools, in order to offer specific opportunities to certain members of the community. These might include a cooperative program with a local high school to teach kids carpentry skills, or an initiative to encourage women to enter the construction trades. People who don't have the ability to perform manual labor may still find volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity, by recruiting volunteers, packing and serving lunches, or doing clerical work.
Globe Aware Adventures in Service
Rather than spending time on the beach or at noisy tourist attractions, many families and individuals are looking for 'voluntourism' opportunities. Globe Aware is a volunteer matching service that helps families and individuals find short term volunteer opportunities all over the world. To get started, all that is required is filling out a form on the organization's website indicating the desired dates and the type of volunteering experience that is desired. Volunteers are given the opportunity to travel abroad to locations such as India, Cambodia, China, Romania, and Costa Rica. Once placed, their duties might include some of the following:
Teaching English to children and young adults
Working with animals in sanctuaries
Building houses and community centers
Helping with conservation projects and volunteering at nature preserves
The volunteer opportunities at Globe Aware are short term and are perfect for a family vacation. Children who volunteer with their parents grow up to be empathetic adults with a keen sense of respect for other cultures.
Pursue Your Passion
Above all else, any volunteer activity you pursue must relate to your specific interests and passions. If, for example, you are a lover of animals, you know that volunteer work should involve animal shelters or the zoo; if you have a passion for improving the lives of children in poverty, then you will want to focus on tutoring or work in neighborhood boys’ and girls’ clubs, or perhaps becoming a “Big Brother or Sister.” Being of service to others, in any capacity, builds character and a keen sense of the value of all humanity.
John Unger is an experienced blogger and contributor for Assignment Mountain. He tries to share his ideas about education, business and self improvement. Feel free to contact John via social profiles Twitter, Facebook.
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