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While the globe becomes increasingly connected, people increasingly long to help one another. Humans seem to have an animalistic impulse to want to help people. Although the internet and other sources of technology can give the impression that the world is full of negative things, human observation shows otherwise. Look at every significant challenge societies have faced, and you will see the majority come together to overcome whatever obstacle they may face. For example, in 2007, as the recession spread across the US, a surge of volunteers came together from across the country like never seen to aid their neighbors and fellow communities. 

What’s interesting is that volunteering helps those not only need but also the volunteers themselves. A study by Harvard Business School found that “happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people given more, getting happier, and giving even more).”

However, volunteering isn’t as straightforward as the instinct to help our fellow human. As we become ever-more connected, it can become more difficult discerning one’s part in it all. The concept of volunteerism seems easy enough, but what do people actually do? Use these tips to find inspiration on where to start volunteering.

Your Cause.

Start by thinking about the issues and causes that are important to you. Once you’ve determined a few, start researching groups and organizations that reflect those causes. If you can’t find an organization that speaks to you, consider starting one yourself. Volunteering is not a cut and dry thing–find creative avenues that suit you.

Family.

It is typically the ones closest to us that we care the most about, and often, our family can also use a help up– although pride can keep some from reaching out. Parents don’t want to burden their children, and the elderly may not want to admit to the decline in their independence. Volunteering can be as simple as offering to watch your uncle’s kids for the night or visiting your grandma daily. 

Community. 

There are many ways to give back to your community, such that everyone can find a way to give back that suits their talents and preferences. For those who like to cook, donate meals to local shelters, bake treats for your neighbors, or prepare lunch baggies to give to the homeless in your community. Those who enjoy art can create cards to deliver to nursing homes and hospitals. Creatives could also become a docent– or a trained guide that leads visitors through exhibits to enhance their experience– at local art galleries, museums, zoos, etc. People with a love for sports could volunteer to coach a local youth team; those with a passion for education could tutor students. You could organize a food co-op in your neighborhood or volunteer at a local hospital– pet or human.

Finally, here are some ideas to help get your mind spinning:

  • Raise or donate money to the Red Cross
  • Mow an elderly neighbor’s lawn; shovel their sidewalks
  • Crochet blankets, scarfs, gloves, and socks for the homeless
  • Help people register to vote
  • Organize clothing drives
  • Participate in charity events
  • Organize a concert at a senior center or children’s hospital
  • Clean up local streets, parks, bodies of water
  • Send cards or create goodie boxes for soldiers overseas
  • Organize a bingo night, bake sale, or car wash for charity
  • Donate used books to school libraries
  • Get involved with the school PTA
  • Give free music lessons
  • Read for kids at the local library or nursery homes
  • Plant a tree for Harbor Day
  • Foster animals for your local shelter
  • Organize a recycling contest