Have you ever found yourself saying, “I’ve always wanted to volunteer, but I don’t have the time,” or “I just don’t know where to start”?
Challenge your definition of volunteering and you might just discover that you are doing it already. Put simply, a volunteer is someone who gives his or her time willingly and expects nothing in return.
Have you ever helped a friend write a letter or a job application? Have you helped at your child’s school with an outing, at a book sale to raise money, or a community sports event? Ever “paid it forward” and committed a random act of kindness like helping a stranger with his or her luggage at the bus station? To me, these acts are all forms of volunteering. I bet you didn’t even notice the time it took out of your day.
If time is short but you want to get involved, lending a hand can become a way of life, like it has for me. Here are six quick and easy ways to volunteer and start making a difference.
• Do something for someone, while doing it for yourself
You’ve got to go food shopping. Why not call an elderly neighbor, or someone who can’t get out, and do his or her shopping? How about the Pusaka (feeding program) that operates at the end of the street – the volunteers there need to pick up provisions. You are going anyway!
• Like to chat?
Have you got 30 minutes to spare, maybe once a week? You could link up with kids in your area and talk to them in your language. Got access to Facebook? Check out Language Exchange. You could partner up with someone wanting to learn your language and maybe learn his or hers, too.
Grab your friends for an hour and have a swap-shop. Choose a theme (books, clothes, toys, etc.). You might come away with something you didn’t know you needed. All the unclaimed items can be donated to the charity of your choice.
• Enjoy gaming?
Did you know that you can play online games for free that donate to charities on your behalf? One example is Charitii – a charity-donating crossword Web site that raises money to provide clean water, food for the malnourished, and protection of the rainforest worldwide. Try www.charitii.com for more information.
• Raise awareness
If there is a yayasan or a cause that really means something to you, you can help raise awareness of its work using your own network. You never know who might be listening who can help! Colleagues at work, friends and family, acquaintances that you find yourself chatting with – help spread the word by talking to people. If you have time free during your lunch hour, maybe that charity needs help writing e-mails or posters that need to be put up. Why not write to your newspaper to tell of the good work that the charity does?
• Use your existing skills
If you can cook, you can help. If you can read, you can help. Are you a computer programmer? A nurse? There are countless ways of using your existing skills to benefit others. Cook someone a meal, advise on health matters, fix the yayasan’s computer. Become aware of the people around you and figure out how much time you can spare each month. Even half an hour can make a huge difference for those who need your skills.
These are just six small ways of donating a little bit of your time to help others. I count all of these as volunteer activities and there must be hundreds of more ways. Small acts of kindness like these really do count. Time is short, so what are you waiting for?