Have you ever found yourself saying, "I've always wanted to volunteer, but I don't have the time," or "I just don't know where to start"?
Challenge your definition of volunteering and you might just discover that you are doing it already! A volunteer, to put simply, is someone who gives his or her time willingly and expects nothing in return.
Have you ever helped a friend write a letter or a job application? Have you helped at your child's school with an outing, at a book sale to raise money, or a community sports event? Ever "paid it forward" and committed a random act of kindness like helping a stranger with his or her suitcase at the airport? These acts are all forms of volunteering. I bet you didn't even notice the time it took out of your day!
If time is short but you want to get involved, lending a hand can become a way of life. Here are six quick and easy ways to volunteer and start making a difference.
You have to go food shopping. Why not call an elderly neighbor, or someone who can't get out, and do his or her shopping? How about picking up a few cans for your local food bank? You are going anyway!
Like to chat?
Do you have 30 minutes to spare, maybe once a week, and access to Facebook? Check out Language Exchange. You could partner up with someone wanting to learn your language and maybe learn his or hers, too.
Throw a swap party!
Grab your friends for an hour and have a swap party. Choose a theme (books, clothes, toys, etc.). You might come away with something you didn't know you needed, and all of those unused items will be recycled as something someone didn't know they needed. All the unclaimed items can be donated to the charity of your choice.
Are you a gamer?
Did you know that you can play online games for free that donate to charities on your behalf? One example is Charitii - a charity-donating crossword Web site that raises money to provide clean water, food for the malnourished, and protection of the rainforest worldwide.
Utilize your own connections
If there is a cause that really means something to you, you can help raise awareness of its work using your own network. You never know who might be listening who can help! Colleagues at work, friends and family, acquaintances that you find yourself chatting with - help spread the word by talking to people. If you have time free during your lunch hour, maybe that charity needs help writing e-mails or posters that need to be put up. Why not write to your newspaper to tell of the good work that the charity does?
Do what you know!
If you can cook, you can help. If you can read, you can help. Are you a computer programmer? A nurse? There are countless ways of using your existing skills to benefit others. Cook someone a meal, advise on health matters, fix a computer for an elderly neighbor or underfunded organization. Become aware of the people around you and figure out how much time you can spare each month. Even half an hour can make a huge difference for those who could benefit from your skills.
These are just a few small ways of donating a little bit of your time to help others. They are all unique volunteer activities and there are hundreds of more options out there. Small acts of kindness count, and add up overtime!