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Volunteering is one of the only ways to make a difference in this world and take away personal satisfaction. It’s also good to have on a CV or to gain some necessary skills that will serve you well in life.
My brother works with a guy who, at the age of just 16, went to Vietnam to build houses for poor villagers. Not only did he get satisfaction and do some good in this world, but I can imagine it was a gem when chatting up a girl at the bar.
But finding volunteer opportunities is the biggest challenge. Those flyers posted around the neighbourhood or on Public Announcement Boards are pretty lame. Volunteering to mow the church’s lawn isn’t exactly going to reverse the effects of global warming, help disaster areas or built houses for Vietnamese families. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t help out whenever and wherever you can but there needs to be a sense of passion and motivation when it comes to volunteer work.
VolunteerMatch is a website, or rather a directory, for volunteer opportunities available in the US and within US Charities with volunteers deployed all over the world. When you go to the site the homepage is basically as you would expect; lots of smiling volunteers and success stories.
In the centre of the screen is the search tool that asks you to input the location where you want to volunteer and in what way. For example, I entered “˜New York‘ and “˜Environment‘ and I got back dozens of search results from organizations asking for help.
Some of them are pretty bogus such as sorting clothes in warehouses (these are well known to be scams by the way – they just sell the clothes and pocket the cash) but most are genuine calls for volunteers from genuine organizations who need help collecting money, administration, promotion and indeed doing the “˜nitty gritty’ work at the frontline.
Across the top you can see a toolbar (pictured here in the screenshot) which gives you the ability to refine your search or just change what you’re looking for. For example, if a volunteer registers himself/herself using the “˜Register‘ button in the top right-hand corner, then organisations can search for that volunteer and thousands others by searching under the “˜Volunteers‘ tab in the toolbar.
You can also prepare for disasters in your area (such as hurricanes, storms, floods, etc) by clicking on “˜Disaster Volunteering‘. This will bring up a map with tonnes of organizations for you to volunteer for in your area.
Many of these charities will be recognizable as you select them from the map – the most obvious being the American Red Cross. I believe the Red Cross made up somewhere between 25-35% of the response teams sent to Hurricane Katrina to help victims with first aid, housing and food – so it’s good to know there are charities in there that really get their handy dirty.
For those interested in volunteer opportunities this is a great resource, if only to get an idea of what you would like to do. And if you decide to go on with volunteering there are thousands of positions available all over the US.
A Quick Tip:
I have heard that many people collect thousands of Euros to go away to Africa and Asia to help out. When they give the money to the “˜charity’, they never hear back from them and never get to go away to provide aid to people. Just be cautious when deciding to do serious volunteering for a charity; ask around or just Google them if they are unheard of.
How have you been helping out in your neighborhood? Did any good lately?