By: Alastair Higginbottom, UK Volunteering Maestro, Salesforce.org
Most of us are keen to give back to our community, but often end up asking ourselves – “what, where, and how on earth can I fit it in?”
As someone who organises volunteering events for a living, I can tell you that, no matter where you are in the world, there are loads of ways you can volunteer your time (whether short term or long term) and really make a difference – sometimes you just need to use a bit of imagination and some crafty googling to get started!
Here are 10 ideas to get you going…
Work with your local junior schools
How about running a special interest session where you share your passion with the students, or you could help with a forest or nature class? Maybe you could volunteer your time to run a school trip or invite a class to your office and introduce them to the world of work. Contact your local school to see the ways you can get involved.
Join an existing club/dojo or set up your own. Facilitate an Hour of Code session with your own children or children of friends, neighbours and family? Teaching this essential skill will help children prepare for their future. All this, with the added bonus that you will be able to work on your own coding and teaching skills. Check out coderdojo.com or hourofcode.com or set up your own club with codeclubworld.org
Give back through sport
This could mean coaching at a local youth sports club, refereeing games for local teams, holding a fitness class for the elderly, or organising local sporting events and park runs. You will be helping people enjoy the benefits of exercise, and at the same time, meeting local people and building on teamwork skills. You may even improve your own fitness at the same time! Search for local fitness charities, sports clubs and mobility programmes.
Befriending isolated and vulnerable members of your community
Spending time with people who don’t get enough social contact can hugely assist in combating the chronic loneliness that some people in our communities experience. There are many charities offering befriending services with elderly, homeless, and disabled individuals – many of these organisations offer ‘online call centres’ which means you can do this from the comfort of your own home. This is a great opportunity to increase your social circle and to interact with a new group within your community
Become a mentor
Young people massively benefit from additional support from what they receive through their regular school classes. As a mentor, you could help young people with their studies, help them access work experience, work through their ideas, support them when applying for higher education, and generally be a positive role model socially and educationally. You get to use your existing knowledge and build on skills such as empathy, communication and supporting growth in others. Contact your local school and higher education institutions to see if they operate a mentoring scheme.
Volunteer in your local food bank
From sourcing, receiving, sorting and distributing essential food donations, to helping people access services and cooking meals at drop-in centres, there are hundreds of volunteering opportunities with food banks you can avail of. Through this, you get to play an active part in reducing food waste, support vulnerable people, and also get the benefit of meeting new like-minded folk. Maybe you could even learn new cooking skills! Check out local food banks and national food bank networks for ways to be involved.
Support local businesses, events and artists
Shop locally with local businesses, visit a local pub or restaurant or attend local artistic and cultural events. You will get more rounded idea of what is happening in your local area, meet new people, experience new things, all whilst keeping your local community vibrant and viable for the future, and you may even get to have a pint or meal out as well! Search for what’s going on in local business directories, or a community events calendar in your local area.
Help a local charity
In most communities you will find a number of small charities, many of which may be able to use your expertise and skills. This could be for a specific project or programme, to support web development or publicity, or to help with fundraising, mentoring staff, delivering services or even joining their Board of Trustees. Volunteering with small charities and developing your own skills – what could be better? Search for charities in your local area and give them a call.
Help teach someone to read or to speak a language
We all know hard it can be to integrate into a community, be it a new job or a new town. Imagine how hard it would be to do this if you couldn’t speak the language or didn’t know how to interact with the local administration. Teaching people to how to read or how to speak a language will help them become involved with and contribute to their local community. Search for local migrant support or educational charities to get involved.
Let others know what you are doing
Informing people about the great experiences you’ve had, the effect of what you’ve done, and the benefits you have felt, could be a great way to get them involved too. If everyone who did something for a charity or their local community encouraged one new person to become involved then it would make a massive difference and you get the added bonus of some Kudos for what you have been doing too!
While volunteering is fundamentally carried our to help the organisations and individuals that you support, it is also hugely beneficial to you, the volunteer – from building your confidence, helping you meet people locally, to building skills that could help you get that dream job. One things for sure – you definitely get out what you put in.
So now it’s up to you – where will you volunteer in 2016?