When most of us hear the word “volunteer,” we immediately think of food drives, trash cleanups, and animal shelters. However, in the age of COVID-19, many of these traditional community service projects aren’t feasible. Although some volunteer activities are impossible to conduct online, there are still plenty of ways you can volunteer and fulfill your service hour requirements from home. Even if your school doesn’t require students to complete community service, volunteering is still a great way to make a difference and help out during this extremely challenging time. The hardest part about volunteering during a pandemic is finding opportunities. To help with that, here are 10 ways to complete service hours and gain volunteer experience from the safety of your home:
Tutoring is one of the few volunteer opportunities that can still be conducted online. The need for tutoring may have even increased because of the pandemic, since it’s harder to stay focused with online classes. You can volunteer as a virtual tutor for an organization, such as STEM Enrichment Youth or The Gift of Learning. Most schools also provide virtual peer tutoring, where students provide one-on-one help for their classmates. Another program that some schools offer is a Writing Center, which is similar to peer tutoring and allows students to help other students with brainstorming, revising, and editing. The great thing about peer tutoring is that you’ll usually be paired with a student that’s in a class you’ve taken and achieved a good grade in before. This allows you to use your own learning experiences to help them understand the material and reinforces your own knowledge. Tutoring also strengthens your leadership skills, so not only are you helping the tutee, but also yourself.
2. School Clubs
Along with tutoring programs, most schools have community service clubs that offer volunteering opportunities. Some activities may even provide service hours for attending meetings and events. Popular high school volunteering programs include Key Club, Rotary Interact, and Amnesty International. Certain high schools may also partner with local elementary and middle schools through mentoring and tutoring programs.
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If you’re passionate about social justice and sharing your views on current issues, journalism advocacy would be a great fit for you. Redefy, a teenage-led nonprofit organization, offers service hours for writing articles that inform readers on the importance of equality. There is no writing experience required to join, and the commitment is one article per month, making it a great fit for anyone who is passionate about activism. Redefy also has community chapters, which focus on youth activism at a local level. If you prefer a more flexible and lower-commitment role, you can also volunteer as a school representative.
4. Volunteer At A Library
Library volunteers can do much more than just shelving books. Many public libraries allow teens to earn service hours by writing book reviews and creating social media content. You can also join a Teen Advisory Board (TAB), a program where teens brainstorm and plan library events with other teens. Although TAB meetings are usually held at the library, many boards are still hosting online meetings. Each library offers different opportunities, so check out your local branch’s website to see how you can help out.
5. Cancer Kids First
After Olivia Zhang’s grandfather and elementary school teacher passed away due to cancer, the then 14-year-old created Cancer Kids First to help kids battle the disease. The certified nonprofit has raised over $4000 and donated over 650 toys and books to hospitals across the United States. Along with fundraising, you can volunteer by creating informative content, organizing events, and designing coloring pages. Cancer Kids First has three volunteering teams, and you can join as many of them as you want. If you’re really passionate about the cause, you can also create a Cancer Kids First chapter in your community.
6. The Letter Project
The Letter Project is a nonprofit where girls hand write encouraging letters to support other girls going through a difficult time. Each recipient receives a bundle of heartfelt letters written by girls all over the world, and the organization has sent 19,000 letters from over 6,500 volunteers. These letters make a real difference in others' lives and are a great way to brighten someone’s day. Another great part about this volunteering opportunity is that there is no set time commitment. You can write at your own pace and as often as your schedule permits, which is great if you're a busy student. You can also earn service hours from hosting a Write Night, a group letter writing event. Although The Letter Project is a Christian-based organization, any girl, regardless of religion, can send and receive letters.
7. Card Making
If you prefer drawing to writing, card making can be a great alternative to letter writing. Two nonprofits that give service hours for creating cards are Cards for Hospitalized Kids and Send a Smile Today, which sends cards to cancer patients. Both of these organizations have specific guidelines on allowed messages, so make sure to review them before you begin card making.
8. Youth Climate Action Team (YCAT)
YCAT is a youth-led organization that works to involve students with climate activism. They currently offer a Climate Extracurricular Education (CEE) Committee program, where volunteers work to implement climate education into schools across the United States. The program lasts 7 months, and volunteers will be able to earn 50 service hours. Although the program began in December, YCAT is still accepting volunteers. You can also join as part of one of their five branches, which include social media, finance, operations, communications, and logistics.