Archive for the ‘volunteer’ Category

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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Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter’s Anniversary – 73 Years in Service

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President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter have been married 73 years today. That’s a big long run, and a testament to willingness to discover fresh opportunities together.

Since his presidency, Carter has flourished for many years as a statesman and powerhouse in the charitable world. If you were so inclined, you could get involved in some volunteer opportunities driven by Carter.

Most of us have heard of Habitat for Humanity, the non-profit home building organization founded in 1976 and now working in all 50 states as well as more than 70 other countries, helping more than 22 million people so far. Jimmy and Rosalynn got involved early and rocketed awareness of Habitat with their ongoing work swinging hammers and building homes. Together with legions of volunteers (not requiring special skills, so any of us can get involved), they help families achieve strength, stability, and independence through safe, decent, and affordable shelter. Pop in your zip code to find your local Habitat here. You’ll find travel and build opportunities if you want to get busy on a volunteer vacation, women build options, programs specific to veterans, youth programs, college challenges, and emergency programs in disaster areas. At the end of a day volunteering, raising a wall on a new home or handing over the keys where a family can now make memories is the kind of payback we all crave.

Another of Carter’s major organizations is The Elders.

This auspicious group has been working since 2007  a group of global leaders, brought together originally by Nelson Mandela, to offer their influence and wisdom to the process of peace building and to address human suffering. In addition to Jimmy Carter, Ban Ki-moon, Graca Machel, Desmond Tutu, and Mary Robinson are a few others of the elders. The group was gathered and launched by Sir Richard Branson and Peter Gabriel.

There are so few cultures that still revere the wisdom that comes with age, the life spirit and lessons passed down through generations–it’s almost as if we move too quickly and are so desperate to reinvent and improve that we end up re-inventing the wheel instead of building upon the knowledge of those who have gone before us. What a loss.

The Elders focus on international rights issues and take on new challenges as they arise. Their collective plate is currently full with initiatives focused on: ethical leadership and multilateral cooperation; climate change, universal health, access to justice, conflict countries and regions, and refugees and migration.

Big, heady issues. Big heads taking them on. When was the last time you reached out to the generation before yours for guidance? Your parents, aunts and uncles, neighbors, family friends, business mentors, or anyone older needn’t be a world leader to have incredible gifts of wisdom that are yours for the asking.

What Would Jimmy Do?

Happy Birthday Dalai Lama — Volunteer to Celebrate

Dalai Lama quoteJuly 6, is the 84th birthday of His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

To celebrate, practice what HE preaches and find new ways to express compassion and connection in your world. One of his more famous quotes: “Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.

If you’re particularly inspired by him, here are a couple of Dalai Lama-specific volunteer opportunities to check out.

The Dalai Lama Center for Peace + Education, in Vancouver, seeks volunteers for all of its expanding programs, including their renowned “Educating the Heart” program. Find out more here.

Traveling to India? (Lucky you!) The Dalai Lama Institute for Higher Education in Bangalore welcomes volunteers who, in return for their service, are able to learn the Tibetan language, Buddhist philosophy, and receive room and board while volunteering. Check out their needs and opportunities at this link.

Dalai Lama Fellows is a global program authorized by him, working with social innovators and those working toward worldwide peace, justice, and ecology. Several fellows of the program have developed and launched programs around the world that need dedicated volunteers. Find your perfect match here.

Comfort and Joy for the Fourth of July

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If you have pets or have ever lived with household animals, you already know the terror that neighborhood fireworks instill in the hearts of dogs and cats. With no way for us to explain our pyrotechnic traditions, and their heightened, excellent hearing, how could they imagine anything other than the end of the world? It is the number one day for runaways, and breaking down fences and leaping over gates that the rest of the year prove secure borders is not uncommon.

Think, now, of the huge numbers of dogs and cats in animal shelters around the country. Most don’t have overnight staff. Come the night of July Fourth, explosions rock the neighborhoods where they are kenneled, already stressed out by the living conditions, and you’ve got a recipe for true misery.

If you’ve got the night off and don’t have plans to be at someone’s barbecue, or spreading your picnic blanket on the golf course to watch fireworks…if you are more likely to be home…AND you don’t have your own animals that you have to comfort as they quake, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter to comfort some pups. Several facilities have programs for this particular night, “Calm the Canines” initiatives just for the peak hours of most municipal fireworks shows (dusk until 10:00pm or so). Check with your local shelter. (Try an internet search for “Fourth of July Animal Shelter Volunteer” or “Volunteer with dogs July 4” or similar–loads of results will pop up)

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They might be playing soft music, volunteers may be talking and cooing, sitting on the floor, reading softly, distracting animals with special treats, and giving tons fo pets and cuddles. Some shelters will even have programs set up for one-night fostering of a dog, taking it asa guest pet to your own home to calm and comfort it during this night of decibels and terror.

Of course, if you fall in love with the adoptable pet you’ve been petting through its panic–all the better–adopting a rescue is a brilliant outcome! Another win/win situation is if you come away from your one-night volunteer gig impressed enough to offer volunteer help other times throughout the year. The animals need you.

Praise vs. Thanks

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I’ve been wondering lately how clearly we hold the distinction between Praise and Thanks. Do we really know the difference? Does one of them, or the anticipation of receiving one, drive us more than another?

I’ve just returned from a 10-day exhausting and overwhelmingly fulfilling volunteer gig working with burn-injured children (Champ Camp of the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation—it’s the largest and longest-running burn camp in the nation—reach out and I’ll tell you every little thing about it—you want to be a part of this, I promise)…and on the long drive home from the hot dusty foothills of Fresno, I reflected back on the week-and-a-half.

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I received a LOT of thanks for my work. I was often embarrassed, because it felt like praise and I, like so many of us, duck and deflect compliments…but I never want to avoid a thank you. A thank you deserves to be heard, received, and responded to (but NOT with that horrific reply “No problem”—Ooof how I want to thwack the head of every damn waiter and barista and service person who replies to “Thank you” with “No problem”…but that’s a rant for another day) with some grace. I also gave a lot of thanks to my fellow volunteers, not to slap them on the back as if to say, “Good on ya” but because I was (am) genuinely thankful for their hard and important work. It gets blurry in my own head which is which, but I know that praise is not important, gratitude expressed IS important.

If we functioned in a vacuum, with no one to witness our good deeds and service as volunteers, how much of this hard work would we still perform? I don’t mean to suggest that we do it selfishly to polish our halos and gain recognition for our selflessness—most of us are legit pretty darned selfless—there are MUCH easier ways to garner praise. If, however, we did a good deed in the forest and no one was there to hear it, might we just walk on by? Probably, at least some of the time. That’s hard for me to wrap my head around for my own self-image, but I think it is authentic.

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I wipe down the public restroom sink because I believe I should, not because someone is watching. I pick up the litter because it offends my sensibility to see it there, not because someone will clap for me. Those are tiny expressions. Will I, however, commit a week and a half to 24-hour-a-day service if I don’t get to humble brag about it on social media? Wow—I sure hope so. I have no sense of an audience for my service when I am in the midst of it all, but if I’m being honest, I sure do want you to notice afterward.

It’s not a peg on which everyone hangs their reputation, but the “being of service” thing is very much a part of who I am and who I say I will always be. How much of that is to feed my ego? I’m not sure. I’m probably being hard on myself with sleep deprivation and laundry and re-entry making my brain swirl. In the long run, what matters is that the good work is done and done well. If you volunteer because a spouse or parent or someone pressures you into it, or so you can include it on a resume or college app, or to get extra credit, does that matter? I say no. Do the work anyway. Sweat the sweat. Cry the tears. Laugh the belly laughs. Hug until it hurts. You might get some praise—big deal—but you WILL get thanks, and that IS a big deal.

If you listen closely, you’ll hear the most important thanks is coming from you.

That seems like a trite statement but it is everything.