Volunteering from Home When You’re Isolated but Still Want to Give

mimi-thian-BYGLQ32Wjx8-unsplashLike most of us, you and yours are probably spending much more time within your own walls these days. While your employer may expect you to be online and available during business hours while you work from home, you have also gained some extra time you once spent commuting, or going out to grab lunch, when you can be volunteering and making a meaningful difference from your own home, on your won schedule.

I promise it will fill your heart and mind much more proactively than the screaming panic on social media!

Check out this list of possible ways to add to the common good by way of your computer, tablet, or phone.

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Crisis Text Line

When people need to reach out in times of crisis – online counselors are available 24/7 so there is someone on the other end of a lifeline. You commit to at least 4 hours per week and get deep training in active listening, collaborative problem solving, and safety planning. This is hotline work and profoundly meaningful intervention training, and you can do it from your couch on your own schedule (the most pressing need is for overnight crisis counselors). https://www.crisistextline.org/volunteer/ And to be sure EVERYONE knows of this resource, if you yourself or anyone you know need help or are considering self-harm, text HOME to 741741 to connect with a trained volunteer counselor any time of the day or night.

United Nations Volunteers

UNV programs contribute to peace and development through internet connections worldwide. They make grateful use of volunteers in areas of need like: writing & editing, translation, research, outreach & advocacy, teaching & training, technology development, art & design, community organizing, and more. 187 countries are involved with the corps of volunteers and their hard work from home. https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en

Catchafire

You offer your expertise to non-profits and NGOs on projects ranging from website development to team communications, marketing to database work. Over 100 areas of need are available for you to engage your computer savvy, and do it all from home. https://www.catchafire.org/

Amnesty Decoders

Amnesty International Decoders utilizes volunteers around the world to use your computer or phone to help researchers sift through pictures, information, and documents. Join the global network and volunteer from anywhere you can be online, on your own schedule. https://decoders.amnesty.org/

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Operation Warm

Start an online fundraiser to get new coats to kids in need and books to local libraries. Discover the details of how you can make a difference in the lives of many young people from the comfort of your home. https://www.operationwarm.org/get-involved/

Smithsonian

Become a Smithsonian Digital Volunteer and help transcribe historical documents and make biodiversity data more accessible. You can add to the official records and collections of field notes, diaries, ledgers, photo albums, manuscripts, specimen labels, and more. Dozens of projects can be searched by theme so your interest is engaged as well as your computer. https://transcription.si.edu/

Chemo Angels

Become a pen pal from home for a patient undergoing chemotherapy. Traditional “Angels” and “Card Angels” send cards, notes, letters, and small gifts each week to an assigned patient for the duration of their treatment. Be the strength and encouragement for someone through their toughest times without ever needing to leave your home. https://www.chemoangels.com/angel-pre-app

Project Implicit

Help Harvard researchers explore and understand associations our culture makes about race, gender, sexual orientation, alcohol & drug use, exercise, anxiety, eating, and other topics by simply taking polls and tests from your home computer. https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/

Zooniverse

People-powered research projects rely on volunteers like you who help classify data, beta test digital projects, or moderate existing projects. You help the scientific community with a huge array of data projects from nature tracking to diabetes diagnosis tools, weather mapping to transcribing military records of African American Civil War soldiers, classifying infant speech sounds to discerning asteroids in images from the Hubble telescope! You can find something to get passionate about here, and work as much or as little as you’d like. https://www.zooniverse.org/get-involved

Your Kids Are (Probably) Not Too Young to Volunteer!

preschool  kidsSure, if still toddling or in diapers, maybe they are more of a ride-along while you get engaged in service, however, if your kids are the age where following directions is a thing, then volunteering can be a thing, too!

While many organizations don’t start making formal use of energetic volunteers until age 8 or older, you can always search for “family-friendly” opportunities to get involved together. Here are a few places to start an online search for just the right project for you and yours.

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  • All for Good (allforgood.org) is a digital hub for volunteerism and community engagement. Find youth-engaging projects in your area by zip code.

 

  • Do Something (dosomething.org) will get kids involved with other kids making a difference—millions of young people in a global movement for good.

 

  • Generation On (generationon.org) provides programs, tools, and resources to engage kids and teens in service and volunteering.

 

  • One More Generation (onemoregeneration.org) was created by kids for kids to get kids involved in conservation and endangered species projects.

 

  • Volunteer.gov (www.volunteer.gov) is the federal program for volunteers to find ways to work on cultural and environmental resource projects. Use the “Family” filter in your search.

 

  • VolunteerMatch (volunteermatch.org) is the largest network in the non-profit world. Search for volunteer opportunities by zip code, kind of work, and add the filter “Kids” or “Teens” to get everyone involved.

Royal Watching for Inspiration

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I’m always fascinated by the frenzy of following every movement or breath of famous folks.

Royal Watching has become quite the national and international pastime, and ramps up to a frenzy when the family members of Britain’s Queen get married or bring a new baby into the world.

We tune in or pick up the grocery store checkout line mags to assess (criticize?) dresses and clothes and baby pictures and pronouncements. Are we comparing ourselves? Fantasizing what it must be like to be royalty? Waiting for some weird schadenfreude moment when someone trips and falls?

I am Royal Watching right now for another reason—I’m looking for inspiration. Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, are in South Africa with their young son, Archie, touring and meeting folks and visiting some fantastic social good causes and NGOs.

That’s the kind of discovery travel I love.

Harry and Meghan have been heart-driven since before they were together, and at their wedding, this benevolence was made manifest with their request that gifts be made as donations to charities. Here is my first look to these particular royals for inspiration.

The Royal Wedding charities they listed were (click the links to find our more about each cause):

CHIVA (Children’s HIV Association), working to ensure young people living with HIV have the treatment and care, knowledge, understanding, skills, and wider support to live well and achieve their greatest potential.

Crisis, the UK’s national charity for homeless people helping people directly out of homelessness, working side-by-side in housing, employment, education, and advice services.

The Myna Mahila Foundation empowers women in the urban slums of Mumbai, India, employing women to manufacture and sell affordable sanitary pads back into their communities to improve menstrual hygiene, provide stable employment, and build a trusted network.

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Scotty’s Little Soldiers is dedicated to supporting children and young people who have lost a parent while serving in the Armed Forces.

Street Games uses sport to change lives for healthier, safer, more successful communities.

Surfers Against Sewage inspires communities to protect oceans, beaches, waves, and wildlife.

The Wilderness Foundation UK harnesses the power of the wilderness to transform vulnerable lives and empowers people to conserve nature.

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In addition to those charities chosen by the Royal Couple for wedding gift support, they co-lead The Royal Foundation (alongside Prince William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge). This foundation has multiple initiatives in several areas: mental health and removing its stigma, conservation of endangered species and wildlands, military service & veteran support, programs for young people, early education, and empowering communities.

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While they are in Africa they are visiting several projects, one I particularly sparked to, The Justice Desk, which operates in South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, empowering local people to understand and defend their human rights in order to build safer communities for all. They educate and equip, train and advocate for youth and vulnerable groups for justice and equality.

National Parks are Free on Sunday (and You can Volunteer, too)

gert-boers-qQC8tyG_JVA-unsplashWhatcha doin’ this weekend? If it’s your last weekend before school, or your kids already have a couple weeks of Academia under their belts, or kids have nothing to do with it, getting outside is always a good option.

Sunday, August 25, is the 103rdbirthday of the National Park Service, and to celebrate, admission to all National Parks is free.

What an idyllic time to explore and enjoy our countrywide system of great green and urban spaces …and maybe give back a little while you’re at it.

I tend to forget, in my hurried day-to-day life, that the wondrous wild places I so fondly remember visiting (and look forward to many more visits) on family vacations and cross-country drives, are more than just stunning vacation spots–they are smoothly-run enterprises of commitment to community, culture, and the environment…AND…they have extensive volunteer programs.

As a National Parks volunteer, you can pop in for a one-shot deal to help with a program, or if you’re lucky enough to live near such sacred spots, there are ongoing opportunities. Kids, families, individuals…all will find rewarding service work in the parks.

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If you’re super motivated, and volunteer 250 hours of service to the parks and/or other federal agencies that participate, you can be eligible for the Annual Volunteer Pass. This pass is your cost-free ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites. Each pass covers entrance fees at national parks and national wildlife refuges as well as standard amenity fees at national forests and grasslands, and at lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation.

To find your V.I.P. (Volunteers in Parks) opportunity, from Yellowstone to the Statue of Liberty, the Everglades to Mount Rainier, you can search by park, state, or zip code. Many of the needs are seasonal, but some are year-round, and while a certain level of fitness or endurance may be required for some gigs, there is plenty to volunteer for that requires less energy as well. Visit the Park Service website and look around a bit, get re-inspired for some next visit plans, and find a way to be one of the boots on the ground folks who keep the parks the treasures that they are.

Don’t miss out take a picnic lunch at the Grand Canyon or search family names at Ellis Island. There are more national parks than states in the country of ours – find one near you or near where your next travel plans will lead. (Find Your Park link)

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Later this year, there are a couple more free days at the parks, September 28 and November 11. Make them all red-letter dates in your calendar.

Lion’s Gate Portal – Volunteering With Lions

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Today, August 8 is 8/8, an auspicious day on many calendars, in metaphysical communities, and for astrology buffs. Called the Lion’s Gate Portal, this day has been celebrated since the time of the Mayan empire with ceremonies and rituals. In numerology, the number 8 represents power, prosperity, sovereignty, and the flow of energy.

In a lovely convergence of themes, today is also International Cat Day.

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In the spirit of the King of the Forest (and the much harder-working, more bad-ass female lioness, the Queen of the forest), here are a few volunteer opportunities around the world where you can work with lions!

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LEO Africa has a Big 5 Wildlife Monitoring and Conservation volunteer program in South Africa’s Marakele National Park. You’ll monitor predator numbers and behaviors and get deeply involved in conservation policies and practices of South Africa. Volunteers are a vital part of ongoing research. www.leoafrica.org

Wildlife ACT’s Fair Trade Tourism-certified wildlife volunteering includes an opportunity in Zululand, South Africa. Conservation volunteers work across five unique national parks and reserves where you’ll monitor lions and other endangered species, mapping their movement behaviors in morning and evening observational game tracking drives. Some programs also include darting and trapping animals for radio collaring to help with protection research. www.wildlifeact.com

Go ECO has volunteer programs at a Big Cat Refuge in South Africa as well as a Lion and Wildlife Conservation program in Kenya’s Maasai Mara. You’ll be deeply embedded in local cultures and help bridge understanding and protection of species in conflict with humans based on diminishing habitats. www.goeco.org

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Priderock Wildlife Refuge in Terrell, Texas needs volunteers to help provide an ideal enviroenment for their big cats. Groundskeeping, maintenance & repair, food prep as well as fundraising and development work are some areas you can work supporting and caring for confiscated and surrendered exotic cats. www.priderock.org

Conservation Africa has a Lion Conservation Experience in Kruger National Park in South Africa, working to reverse human injustices like captivity, canned lion hunts, cub cuddling for tourists, and farming lions for the bone trade. Discover more at www.conservationafrica.net

SLOW DOWN!!! Earth Overshoot Day

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This red-letter day each year comes around on a different date…and I am bummed it is so early in 2019…July 29! In this case, RED letter is bad news.

Today is Earth Overshoot Day—the day the scales tip OUT of our favor. This is the day that humans have used up the maximum resources that the earth can replenish in a year. Starting tomorrow, we are digging too deeply, past what can be renewed. This day is creeping up earlier every year—just a few years ago we hit this point in mid-October. Now it is in July.

Ouch

We keep getting more efficient at screwing ourselves up!

Most often, in life, it is beneficial to be ahead of schedule for things — better than the alternative, being late. Well, when it comes to annually using up our world’s resources, the early bird doesn’t get the worm…the early bird probably only gets hungry, and thirsty, and hot…

…very hot.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. The Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for, and supply of, natural resources and ecological services, and at some point on the calendar, we get to the point where we are in a deficit compared to what can be provided, so we are technically chipping away resources, increasing tonnage of waste, exhausting the supply of potable water and fertile land, and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. In banking terms, we are drawing down the earth’s principal rather than responsibly living off the interest.

Ecological overshoot is a non-sustainable way of life and possible for only a limited period of time before we degrade the system so far that we end up with water shortages, desertification, soil erosion, reduced cropland activity, overgrazing, rapid species extinction, collapse of fisheries, and increased carbon concentration…sound familiar?

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Our global overshoot has more than doubled since 1961. According to Global Footprint Network, we are now living large, literally, as it would take much more than our single Earth to actually support our current consumption, and predictions state we would require two entire planets to support our usage trends by mid-century. Use THIS TOOL to calculate your own personal ecological footprint, and see, if everyone lived like YOU, how many Earths we would need to support that kind of life. It can be shocking.

Only 14% of our world lives in countries with more biocapacity than usage footprint, including Australia, Canada, Finland, Chile, and Brazil. The United States is squarely in the not-so-happy red zone, using more natural resources than we can possibly provide.

TAKE ACTION:

Here are some ideas to #MoveTheDate (trying to push the date we move into the red zone LATER on the calendar)

THAT would be progress, and YOU can definitely play a large part!

1 Year Until Tokyo Olympic Games – Are You Volunteering Yet?

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A year from now, all eyes will be on Tokyo for the Olympics, July 24 – August 9, 2020.

Volunteer application opportunities have closed for those who want to work at the Olympic Games and/or the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020 (last date to apply was in December 2018) but these links will give you information about opportunities and the process if you want to throw your (*official Olympic Games merchandise) hat in the ring for the next round.

Get a head start on planning for the next chance — 2022 Winter Olympics are in Beijing.

It takes thousands of dedicated volunteer souls to make Olympic magic happen.

Olympic Volunteers are used for myriad roles, including Ceremonies Production, Customer Service, Health Services, Operational Support, Press & Communication, Protocol and Languages, Sports, Technology, and Transport. The volunteer squad will number about 80,000 individuals!

It’s kind of a big deal, with many steps and interviews and training along the way, but what a hoot to be able to say at your next get together with friends that YOU are going to be helping make the Olympics happen. They even use volunteers to be in the “cast” of performers/dancers/marchers/etc for the opening ceremonies and medal ceremonies!

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These are the Tokyo Games mascots, “Miraitowa” and “Someity”

There is online training, then later, in-person training, and you get a full uniform specific to your volunteer placement, certificate of appreciation, local transportation, meals on days you work, exclusive gifts, and a whole slew of international friends and colleagues. You must be 18 years oldvand be available for ten days during the Olympic or Paralympic Games.

You are responsible for your own travel and housing during your stay, so start your planning early…like today! Full information and Frequently Asked Questions here.

The Paralympic Games are in Tokyo, following the Olympics, August 25 – September 6. There are 22 sports in the Paralympics for athletes with impairment (of muscle power, range of motion, limb deficiency/difference, leg length difference, short stature, hypertonia (muscle tension/inability to stretch due to neurological condition), ataxia (lack of coordination due to neurological condition), athetosis (involuntary movement), visual impairment, intellectual impairment.

Paralympics volunteers take on roles similar to those of the Olympic Games — spectator guidance, competition operation, and media. Again, set your sites on Beijing for Winter Games 2022.

I’m a big giant fan of the Special Olympics organization (find your nearest Special Olympics office here and become a volunteer here) so the Paralympic Games are really special to me.

Inclusion is everything.

The city to Tokyo is also engaging 30,000 city volunteers to provide tourism and transport information (must be conversant in Japanese and have permission to reside in Japan for 5 or more days during the period of service).

Transform lives, including your own, by volunteering in programs like these.