Volunteering and giving back to my community has always been a massive part of my life, and it can be the same for you. Not only can volunteering help you better connect with your community, but it can expand your network and help you make a difference. The problem for so many people when it comes to community service is that they don’t know where to start. Here are 7 ways you can get involved with your community.
Keep in mind, some of these opportunities may be impacted by COVID-19.
World hunger has been on the rise and affects hundreds of millions of people each day. According to World Vision, “Globally, about 8.9% of the world’s population — 690 million people — go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Since 2014, the number of people affected by hunger has been slowly on the rise. If it continues at this rate, it’ll exceed 840 million by 2030.” When it comes to food banks, there are two ways you can get involved: giving and working. To donate, you can find food in your pantry that you won’t eat, hold a local food drive, or raise money to buy food. Oftentimes, food banks are run by volunteers, so they sometimes need an extra hand. Reach out to them, or see if they have any information about volunteering on their website! To find a local food bank in the United States, click here.
Give back to where it all started for most: schools. Because of lack of funding, many schools do not have all the resources or people they need. Giving your time to local schools can be so beneficial to both them and you. If you have an interest in going into the field of education, this is a great way to get started. While helping out, you can improve your skills and interactions with children. When initially volunteering, you may be able to choose what you do. If you’re more interested in organization, ask for a job that would allow you to organize a closet or classroom. If you love the classroom, see if you can be a teacher’s assistant. No matter what you’re doing, you’ll still be helping out.
There is a homelessness crisis, especially in the United States. According to endhomelessness.org, “In January 2020, there were 580,466 people experiencing homelessness in America.” Too often, homeless shelters don’t have enough room or resources to accommodate all those in need. When you volunteer at a homeless shelter, you may have the opportunity to serve meals, train homeless people in life skills, or simply entertain those staying at the facility. If you cannot volunteer at the shelter, you can always donate practical items. Socks, shoes, underwear, blankets, giftcards, umbrellas, coats, hygienic items, and school supplies are some great examples of what you can donate. Homeless people are humans, just like the rest of us, and if you are in a position to help them, please do so. Just helping one person out can change their lives and give them hope for their future.
Some of my best summer memories are partaking in all of those crazy and fun summer camps. Every child deserves to experience the “proper camp experience,” and you can help them achieve that. Camps are always looking for new counselors and counselors-in-training (CIT). Find a local summer camp, or one you went to as a kid, and ask if you can work there over the summer. Not only will you be making young kids’ days, but working at a camp can be fun, as you can participate in most of the activities the kids do. Arts and crafts, swimming, sports, singing, you name it! There’s no reason you can’t have fun, too— enjoy it!
What you do with this is really up to you. Pick a local school, hiking trail, park, or any other place used frequently by your community and spruce it up! If you want, grab a few friends, or advertise the event at a local high school and get some help. All you need are some garbage bags, gloves, and trash pick-up sticks (optional). Just by giving your time for an hour or two, you can transform a whole space for your community. Have fun cleaning!
Helping Senior Citizens
If you’re not the biggest fan of children but still enjoy others’ presence, this is for you. The pandemic has shown firsthand how under-assisted elderly people often are. In your free time, you can reach out to something like a local nursing home and see what you can do to help them. If you know any senior citizens in your neighborhood, reach out and see if they're in need of any help doing chores or buying groceries. You can also call them just to have a conversation or write a letter; small things like that can make someone’s day.
Puppies, kittens, you name it! Animals are the cutest creatures, but they often don’t get to live their best lives. Spend some of your time volunteering at an animal shelter! You get to hang out with cute pets while also giving them the help they need. You may be able to help the animals find new homes, keep them clean, play with them, and more. Before volunteering, make sure you aren’t allergic to the animals!
There are no reasons you can’t give back to your community and make it a better place. When your community is a better place, you live in a better place. It comes back to you, too. The next weekend you are free, take a couple of hours to do one of the above. Whether you’re picking up trash at a local park or playing with the most adorable chihuahua, have fun with it! Community service should make you feel good, and that all starts with your mindset. Enjoy yourself while doing something great!