By Beverly Nelson, Stand Up For Caregivers
Staying connected and feeling useful are two byproducts of volunteering that can help reduce stress, lead to new relationships, and even benefit you professionally. Giving of yourself is also good for your mental and physical well-being, and it’s a healthy way to stay vibrant and active and give back to the community. Helping others is a good way to fight depression by staying physically and mentally engaged, using your talent and intellect for the common good. And you can do it when you want, where you want, and in whatever form appeals to you.
There are a great many volunteer opportunities in most communities, and chances are you can easily find one that suits your interests, temperament, and abilities. If you’re looking for a volunteer opportunity, here are a few smart ideas to consider.
Volunteerism can benefit you professionally by teaching new skills and allowing you to sharpen abilities that are important to you at work. And you can list volunteer experience on a resume, a good way to catch the eye of employers looking for well-rounded individuals. Carefully research different styles of resumes so you know where and how to promote volunteer work on yours. There are also many online resources with a wealth of information, including informative articles and ebooks, that can help steer you in the right direction.
There’s no lack of opportunities these days to raise money for causes that help the less fortunate, both locally and internationally. Fundraising is extremely important for individuals and charitable organizations that need resources to carry out their mission. If you’re put off by the idea of calling strangers and asking for money, take heart. These days, fundraising has shifted to the internet, where crowdfunding — soliciting small amounts of money from large groups of people — is the latest thing in fundraising. The sky’s the limit as far as what you can raise money for. You can raise funds conveniently for everything from fighting human trafficking in India to providing clean drinking water to people in Ghana. Open Heart Kitchen provides a crowdfunding platform through a “virtual food drive” where monies raised go directly toward meal programs. Start a virtual food drive here.
If you’re especially fond of animals, pet-related volunteering is a great way to spend your volunteer time. Animal shelters and organizations like the SPCA, Humane Society, and rescue groups are always looking for people to walk dogs and assist with basic care (feeding, grooming, etc.). Pet adoption centers also need volunteers to spend time with animals that are waiting for a new home, some of whom may have suffered abuse at the hands of a previous owner. Such animals are in need of love and companionship, and a dedicated volunteer can do a tremendous amount of good helping them make the transition to a happy, healthy new life.
The United States has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, yet education and literacy remain major concerns in many areas. You can help end literacy by becoming an adult literacy volunteer and helping undereducated individuals learn to read. Proliteracy, for instance, will pair you with people who need the patient help of someone who can help them acquire this important skill. There are also volunteering opportunities to help children learn to read through various community organizations.
If you’re looking for a way to combine volunteerism and tourism, consider the many volunteer opportunities abroad. Connect with NGOs abroad that are looking for volunteers and enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a foreign culture as an insider instead of a conventional tourist. Tripadvisor, Lonely Planet, and the Voluntourist are good online sources of information about volunteering opportunities. Visit the Voluntourist Book to read about volunteering experiences from Palestine to New Orleans.
Volunteerism is an enriching experience. It boosts self-esteem, instills self-confidence, and provides a forum for sharpening social and professional skills. Volunteers benefit physically and mentally, and the emotional reward of knowing you’ve helped other human beings is a form of self-affirmation unlike any other.
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