Archive for the ‘volunteer’ Category

The New Maya Angelou Coin and Her Charities

New Year. New Currency. New Inspiration.

Today begins the wide circulation of the first of the new U.S. Mint American Women Quarters Program with the new Maya Angelou 25-cent piece. With arms outstretched in front of an uncaged, soaring bird and rays of the sun, the coin honors the legacy of Angelou. The image was designed by Emily Damstra and sculpted by Craig Campbell.

The flipside of the quarter is George Washington in a beefier version than we’ve seen before, designed by Laura Gardin Fraser.

On this day, I thought it would be interesting to poke around and find out more about the charitable work of Ms. Angelou.

“What I would really like said about me is that I dared to love. By love I mean that condition in the human spirit so profound it encourages us to develop courage and build bridges, and then to trust those bridges and cross the bridges in attempts to reach other human beings.” ~Maya Angelou

The Dr. Maya Angelou Foundation shares the mission, “…to improve the quality fo life for all human beings” and the vision, “to sup[port educational excellence and healthcare equity initiatives for all.” Much of the foundation’s impact is based on scholarships to historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) as well as through healthcare education efforts and a Women’s Health and Wellness Center. Your charitable donations (link here) help to support these vital programs.

In addition to the foundation, other organizations and foundations carry Dr. Anegelou’s name, including The Maya Angelou Young Adult Learning Center, a program of the See Forever Foundation Maya Angelou Schools. Here is a link to explore getting involved as a volunteer in Washington D.C. mainly in the areas of mentoring and tutoring—check it out.

Oakland, California’s Maya Angelou Library and Literacy Center has volunteer opportunities to help guarantee the community has access to opportunities to train and learn and open use of resources and technology. Explore volunteer opportunities at this link.

From Baltimore M.D. Hopkins University
© copyright John Mathew Smith 2001

Even if not directly working with one of the projects in her name, perhaps today is a perfect day to honor your own spirit of connection and humanity by honoring Maya Angelou with your search for ways to be of service. Flip a shiny new quarter and call it in the air. Heads, you win, tails, you win.

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.”

~Maya Angelou

For the Birds: Volunteering with Winged Friends

Well, the early bird definitely missed the worm on this one, as I just discovered, a day late, that yesterday, January 5, was National Bird Day.

So my thoughts turn skyward as I starting searching for ways to volunteer for and with birds. Here are a few opportunities you may want to explore…

First, check your local wildlife rescue and rehabilitation organizations. Most communities have one nearby, even big cities. There is always need of financial and often labor/volunteer support to help birds and other wildlife that have been orphaned, or suffered some nasty interaction with predators or hunters or cars or windows. The work these organizations do is heroic, and any level of support can continue their work for a number of “clients” that would likely shock you (injury happens every single day).

One of the best-known and beloved animal rescue organizations in the world is Best Friends Animal Society in Kanab, Utah (they also have regional programs in Atlanta, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Utah, and Arkansas). There are volunteer opportunities (one-time for a visit or ongoing) in their “Parrot Garden” housing about 100 birds. You may be asked to feed, clean, bathe, and play with birds, socialize the birds, and add to their day-to-day lives. Click this link for more.

Maitland, Florida’s Audubon Center for Birds of Prey utilizes volunteers for program operations and community science research, clinical rehab programs, and day-to-day operations. You could be a greeter, a feeder, a docent, or more. They also hold group volunteer days to knock out bigger projects (mostly outdoors). Here’s more info on getting involved with the bald eagles and other birds of prey.

Lots of California Audubon programs also need volunteers, many focused on shorebirds. Opportunities include beach cleanups, wildlife surveys, installing fencing and infrastructure, monitoring colony sites and nests, and educating the public. This link has sub-links to volunteering possibilities in Mendocino, San Francisco, Monterey, Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Huntington Beach, and San Diego.

Birds of Paradise sanctuary and rescue in Bradenton, Florida, is completely volunteer-run, and would love help with socializing and care, maintenance, event planners, and group service day projects. Here’s a link to what they are up to.

Free Flight is committed to exotic birds needing shelter and rehabilitation. Their Del Mar, California sanctuary has a flexible volunteer program (but asks for a twice-monthly commitment) from volunteer docents, avian care and socialization people, maintenance, and special events. Check out the possibilities here.

If you are back into travel (and we all know it is a rough post-pandemic or ALMOST post-pandemic comeback for many destinations), Working Abroad has multiple destination trips where you can work with birds, including projects in Ecuador, Peru, Namibia, Costa Rica, South Africa, Seychelles, and New Zealand. Lots of links to click and explore here, even if long-distance travel seems life a far-off goal for now (it’s always nice to dream, and plan ahead when you find the perfect match trip!)

As with any service project or volunteer opportunity these days, your work is so desperately needed (as is financial support in these painfully lean times) but PLEASE be in direct communication with any agency or charity to be aware of changes and restriction based on COVID protocols and requirements. Also keep abreast of any travel destination rules and practices. Things change, for all of us, at a moment’s notice, so be sure your great energy can be used for maximum impact in the context of safety and health for everyone.

Insta-Motivation and Why We Do What We Do

Like the adage about a tree falling in the forest…if we do something kind or philanthropic and don’t get the selfie, does it still count?

With Instagram and every other image-driven platform, there has been a huge rise in performative charity. You know, the buying a meal for a homeless person only after you’ve got your camera set up or friend recording from across the street…or giving a huge tip to a server to change their life as you zoom in on their emotional reaction. How many cameras get trained on the parked car before a rescuer saves the terrified dog cowering underneath?

So, the question remains, if there is no glory, will we still be kind?

I know the shortcut and instinctive answer is “Yes. Of course,” and we quickly dismiss those attention seekers as shallow and unlike us…but is that the case? It’s not a bad thing necessarily—we can want the photo—perhaps not for social media clicks and follows, but to share an amazing story with loved ones, or as a reminder and motivator to ourselves of a special, and genuinely valuable, time and experience.

There’s some new science about this, comparing “opportunistic” do-gooders (those doing it for the posts and attention) vs. those who commit acts of kindness driven by compassion (when no one is necessarily watching). I’d venture most of us are somewhere on the spectrum between.

Data from 12,259 respondents who took an Emotional Intelligence Test with PsychTests found some differences in altruism based on motivation. For instance: 62% of opportunistic do-gooders believe the statement “the end justifies the means” (compared to 30% from the “genuine” crowd). 46% feel that you NEED to step on a few toes to get ahead while only 13% of the genuinely motivated agree. 54% of those seeking the praise of others would rather live a life of success than a life according to their own values (22% of the genuine folks) and a dispiriting 37% would encourage a depressed person to “toughen up.”

Some other things learned might increase some sense of compassion for the identified “posers” as we learn that 39% are uncomfortable actually consoling others, 50% say they lack a purpose and feel directionless, 31% feel like imposters and that they don’t deserve the success they have, 46% do not experience a sense of satisfaction after an achievement unless there is praise attached, and 43% will change themselves (beliefs, opinions, appearance, behavior) in order to please others.

I won’t suggest any motivation that gets us in action for others ought to be labeled bad or negative…just interesting. I am still happy to put all the weight behind the concept of a net gain, and that a meal served is a meal served no matter how it got to a hungry person. I don’t think we need a purity test for good deeds, but I am a fan of introspection and checking in with ourselves in every area of life. This is perhaps an invitation to gaze inward for a second, take stock, and then go out and redouble our efforts to have the positive impact we know we are supposed to have, with or without our cameras.

Hoping this finds you well, moving quickly through the sticky parts, and affirming great ways you’re going to rock our world.

Volunteering From Home (Part 2)

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After lots of great support for the previous blog, “Volunteering from Home When You’re Isolated but Still Want to Give,” it makes sense to scour for some more opportunities for virtual volunteering. We’ve been in our homes for a while now and will still be here for a while more. We also know that mental health professionals tell us one of the most effective ways to combat loneliness, anxiety, and depression is to be of service to others.

If you’re feeling trapped, isolated, restless, worn down, or any of the other myriad emotions we all swim among day-to-day during these times…maybe you’d like to consider some of these opportunities to make a difference during social distancing, and in the more liberated future, as well.

Be My Eyes

A free app you install on your phone that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call. You make yourself available to receive calls on your own schedule, and if a blind person needs help, they are connected to you via video (without knowing your personal information). It could be a request for help to read signs, get directions, read documents or mail or labels at the store, or any of so many tasks where just a little help can make a huge difference. When you are not available to be someone’s eyes, the next volunteer will handle it. Over 3,500,000 volunteers help in over 180 languages and more than 150 countries. Join them! https://www.bemyeyes.com/

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Objective Zero

Peer supporters remotely connect with veterans and active military in the top suicide prevention, behavioral, and mental health wellness platform available. The easy-to-use app enhances social connectedness and access to resources to combat suicide and self-harm in the military community. Users can remain anonymous or build a profile for this nationwide network. You can become a certified ambassador with online training courses—making yourself available for even a short time each week can save a life. https://www.objectivezero.org/ambassadors

Points of Light

Get information and links to multiple virtual volunteering opportunities here, including some specific to the COVID-19 response. Using your computer, tablet, or phone, you can connect and serve in any number of ways. https://www.pointsoflight.org/virtual-volunteering-opportunities/

Wikipedia

The information aggregator that rules your internet searches depends on editors who volunteer from home. There is no experience necessary to begin to learn editing skills from more experienced editors, and soon you can be contributing articles and improving, fact-checking, and correcting existing entries. If you’ve got coding skills, you have even more to offer, but anyone can help. https://wikimediafoundation.org/participate/

Tarjimly

If you are bilingual or multilingual in any languages, you can be matched with world refugees and aid workers who need your support from afar. Using chat, audio, or video calls, you can be of service to the world’s 23 million refugees, translating for humanity. “Tarjimly” means “translate for me” and their mission is to improve the lives of refugees and the efficiency of humanitarian services by eliminating language barriers. https://tarjim.ly/en

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Red Cross

The American Red Cross is who we all know to turn to during times of crisis and disaster, but the amazing volunteer work they need is not limited to disaster dispatch teams with food and shelter, but also digital advocates, who work from home. Red Cross wants you to actively engage in social media sharing of important dispatches and messaging, jump into online fundraising, and explore Disaster Relief text initiatives. Find out about virtual opportunities here: https://www.redcross.org/volunteer/volunteer-opportunities/be-a-digital-advocate.html

American Heart Association

Conduct online wellness checks and give support to stroke patients, families, and caregivers via online forums and support groups. Also check on elderly members of your community who may be housebound or isolating in non-healthy ways via virtual interactions organized by the agency. https://www.heart.org/en/get-involved

Volunteermatch

The largest pairing network for volunteer opportunities by region has an entire section of their searchable database for Virtual Volunteers (nearly 700,000 volunteers needed as of today for ongoing or dated opportunities). There is a huge array of categories of work to dive into and find your perfect fit. Do a one-off gig for an afternoon, or find your newest partner-for-good agency changing the world the way you always knew could happen. https://www.volunteermatch.org/virtual-volunteering

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 own 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.

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

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.

Volunteering Out of This World – Inspired by Lunar and Space Exploration

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When was the last time you went outside and stared up at the night sky? Did you wish upon a star, hang your dreams on the moon, ponder your place in the universe?

50 years ago the entire nation was looking toward the heavens with awe, pride, disbelief, and wonder as our first astronauts visited and stepped foot on the moon. It was too audacious to want, but we did. It was too far out to be realistic, yet it was.

Anyplace in your world where you hold a vision of yourself that your ego tells you is too far out, too audacious, that a wise person would tuck that dream away and never speak its name…? Wouldn’t it be FUN to fly in the face of such…reasonableness?

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Can you tip your chin toward the night sky and imagine yourself in an unfamiliar place, doing unfamiliar things, to help unfamiliar people or animals or communities or places?

Here are a few Apollo/Lunar-inspired volunteer opportunities—maybe one is for you:

NASA – offers unpaid training opportunities to high school and college students to explore career options in the federal agency. Most internships last three to four months and can be done during the academic year or summer. Here’s the info to explore more.

The Lunar and Planetary Institute – is a division of the Universities Space Research Association, established during the Apollo missions to foster international collaboration and gather information about the space program. The LPI in Houston, TX has a summer program for undergraduate students to work with planetary scientists for 10 weeks embedded in cutting edge research and one-on-one work with leading researchers. Find out more here.

The Space Station Museum – In Novato, California, volunteers help bring space education to the Bay Area working as museum volunteers and docents, leading tours, answering questions, and occasionally hanging out with astronauts. No experience is required. Apply here.

The International Dark-Sky Association – works to protect the night skies from light pollution and keep some of the zones of our world pristine enough to see the galaxy and beyond. Volunteers advocate in their local communities, give public presentations/talks, do public outreach at local events, become citizen scientists to measure and study light pollution, and more. Find opportunities to get involved at this link.

The Moon Society – is run entirely by volunteers. The organization seeks to inspire and involve people all over the world in study and exploration of the moon with an eye toward eventual civilian settlements and pioneering. Volunteers are chapter coordinators, publications director, communications and social media, technical writers, project managers, fundraisers and grant-writers, event organizers, and more. Check out their site and available positions here.

The Space Foundation – in Colorado Springs inspires, educates, connects, and advocates on behalf of the global space community. Long-term and short-term volunteers are needed to assist with operations, teaching, development, communications, and marketing as well as helping at the annual Space Symposium. Sign up to volunteer here.

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