Volunteering


There are so many ways that you can help that the excuse, ‘I’m sorry but I’m too small a person to be able to make a difference’ is no longer feasible. Volunteering is a great way to get out there a do something about the suffering in today’s world. Instead of sitting on the couch watching the World Vision ads, you can dedicate your time, whether it’s a year, a month, a day or just a couple of hours. Every bit of help can make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate, or an environment which is close to destruction, or an animal that faces the threat of extinction. Whatever cause gets your blood going, there is a way you can volunteer to help. With so many different charities out there today, you can dedicate your time to your cause of choice. For some people this might mean signing up for a year to help loved ones get reunited in war torn countries, for others it might be using their IT skills to help a charity online maintain awareness through the Internet, and for others still it might be just selling chocolates to neighbours to raise money for your local hospital. Volunteering is about dedicating your time to a non-profit organisation to directly make for a better world, not to mention all the benefits you will get from it, like the sense of satisfaction in knowing you’ve helped or the chance to learn a new skill or become more confident. Volunteering is not just about helping others, it can also a way to help yourself develop as a person.

Why volunteering matters
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You don’t need to be a politician to help bring change in our world. Volunteering allows people of all ages and background to contribute to making a positive difference. It’s not just about saving those in poor countries, volunteering helps our own societies everyday. According to a recent John Hopkins University Study, volunteering contributes 5% to our GDP each year and think of all the great buys you’ve gotten from the local Opportunity or Charity Shops over the years. Volunteering also helps create important links between the business and the non for profit organisations. Not only does this help create job opportunities but is also helps keep a cohesive society and maintain social integration. But more importantly, without volunteering many organisations would fail. By working not for the money but for the sense of contribution, volunteers ensure that the money the NGOs do get is spent on maintaining the good they do at home or abroad. But even if all of this doesn’t melt your heart and make you want to volunteer, there’s the good it does in providing informal and formal opportunities for you to gain knowledge, exercise skills and extend your social networks, as well as better yourself and your CV.

How you can volunteer:
There are various ways in which you can volunteer, whether it be at home, overseas, or for a one-off occasion.

At home:

Making a difference by volunteering doesn’t mean you have to fly to Africa and hand out aid packages. Local volunteer services are everywhere, from teaching, management, health care and IT, to selling Christmas cards or chocolates, running a charity shop, collecting money or sponsoring your local soccer team, every little bit matters. A lot of NGOs need a lot of help at home to support their work overseas and keep their organisations afloat and growing. And don’t forget, fundraising plays a big part in maintaining an NGO.

Here are some tips to help you help others:

* The first thing to do is choose the cause, organisation, part of the world or issue you want to volunteer for. Look around your community or on the Internet and find something that stirs your desire to make a difference.
* Next make a list of any unique skills you have to offer, such as IT or PR skills. If not that’s ok because you can still make a big contribution to that organisation just by volunteering
* Think of any activities or particular tasks you want to undertake or skills you want to learn
* Decide how much time you have to offer, even if it’s only a few hours, it’s better than nothing!


Once you’ve decided:

* Give your organisation of choice a call and as for the volunteer coordinator about any opportunities or vacant positions
* If they have a website, you might be able to find out details about such opportunities there
* If they don’t have anything, leave your name and number so that they can contact you in the future and try another organisation. Don’t get down hearted!
* If they do have something, don’t be surprised if they ask you to fill in a form or attend an interview- this is their way of ensuring they get the best use of your help


Abroad

Volunteering abroad is a great way to enrich your life, get new life experiences and skills, and increase your job opportunities. Some volunteer opportunities abroad can last two years or two weeks and while some organisations might ask you to pay your fare and board others might have those costs covered.

* Once again choose the organisation or part of the world you want to go to
* Think of any skills you might have to offer
* Decide how long you want to volunteer for
* Decide if there are any particular activities you would like to do, whether its building houses, teaching English or caring for the sick
* Contact that organisation to check for vacancies
* Do your research both about the country you want to travel to and the organisation
* See if you need to pay your way or if your living costs are covered


One-off or occasional volunteering- Campaigning

Campaigning is a great way to volunteer if you’re time poor. Amnesty International has a letter writing campaign which always you to continue with your busy schedule and still do your part without even leaving home. Other volunteer programs have people who can assign you work you can do online, like translating, marketing, writing business proposals or programming. Some NGOs have awareness-raising programs where you can speak to schools, businesses or agencies once a month or just once to spread the world. Or you can join a NGO’s board of trusties or a committee to make your voice heard and put your skills to good use. Whatever your schedule allows, the options are endless!

For more information check out these websites:

* www.crossculturalsolutions.org
* www.iicd-volunteer.org
* www.onlinevolunteer.org
* www.unvolunteers.org
* www.do-it.org.uk