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you couldn’t pay me to do this

January 17, 2010

I haven’t written in awhile. The holidays and the busyness of it all threw me for a loop. But I’m back and it’s a new year and one of my many resolutions it try to write an entry once a week. So here goes the first entry of 2010.

Volunteerism, a lot of people do it and a lot of people don’t. To those of you who don’t, let 2010 be the year you start. You may have 10,000 excuses, but usually they all boil down to being too busy or not knowing where to begin.  So I am here to help.

First of all, you are not too busy.  Everyone and I mean everyone has some time to give to something else.  Not everyone can make a huge time commitment, but there is no one out there who can’t give some time. It might be once a week, once a month, or even just once a year but everyone has at least one day a year that they can give up for a greater cause.  When people think about volunteering they often think it needs to be all or nothing, and feel like if they can’t give a lot of time then it’s not worth it.  However, there are a lot of non-profits and other organizations who put on events, such as charity walks, auctions, and other one day events and having volunteers to work at those events is crucial to their success.  Other places and organizations including shelters, prisons, and hospitals, are often happy to have people make a once a month commitment.  So look at your life and your calendar, figure out how much time you can reasonably give and then give it.

Now that I have convinced you that you have the time, how do you decide what to do? Well, think about your passions.  Some people already have causes that are really important to them and that is always a good starting point.  However, if you don’t have an affinity to a particular cause, think about your interests.  For whatever interest you have there is usually an organization that could give you the opportunity to use that interest.  Say, for instance, you love knitting. There are plenty of different ways you could use that love to help out.  Volunteer at a senior center to knit with the people who live there, volunteer to teach knitting at an after school program, or volunteer to knit items that people are in need of.  You get the idea.  Not interested in a volunteer experience where you are making or doing something specific? Well, you could volunteer with an organization that lets you work with people.  Non-profits like Best Buddies and Big Brother Big Sister don’t require a particular skill set, but rather that you spend time with someone.  I volunteered with Best Buddies and twice a month committed to doing something with my “buddy” a woman my age with an intellectual disability.  We would go shopping, have lunch, run errands; really we did whatever we wanted.  I didn’t even have to change my schedule or go out of my way. I did the things I would normally do, I just did them with her. We would take turns picking the restaurant or places we went, but they we always places we both liked going.

If none of these examples have sparked any ideas, there are also several different ways to search for volunteer opportunities here are a few sites that can help you:

http://idealist.org/ – idealist can help you find volunteer opportunities, job openings with  non-profits, internships and a whole lot more.

http://www.volunteermatch.org/ – volunteer match lets you search for volunteer opportunities by location

http://www.serve.gov/index.asp -serve.gov lets you search for volunteer opportunities by interest and location.

http://ww.craigslist.org – in the community section there is a section for volunteering

These are just a few sites.  If you know about particular organizations you would want to volunteer with, just contact them.  Even if their website doesn’t say anything about needing volunteers, call and find out. Most places are happy to have people who want to help.

So, I know most people already know why they should volunteer, but just in case.  Here are a few big ones.

1. It’s fun- if you find the right match it is usually a great time

2. It makes you feel good- Mark Twain said “the best way to cheer yourself is to try to cheer someone else up.” He was right

3. It’s Needed- There are a lot of people that need help and things that need to be fixed and not enough money to do it all. The world needs volunteers.

There are a thousand more reasons, some more altruistic and some more selfish.  The only reason that really matters is the one that matters to you.  I hope everyone who reads this considers finding a volunteer opportunity that works for them. Happy new year!

love.
dani
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