Monday, January 10, 2011

Create Your Own Volunteer Group: It's Fun!

Many people would like to volunteer, but think it doesn't look fun, or have had bad experiences in the past.

Most people envision volunteering with others in a friendly atmosphere and seeing actual results from the work.

I really wanted to volunteer because it is part of my spiritual principles to serve others. I had envisioned working with like-minded friends in an atmosphere of helping others together.

Unfortunately, my actual experiences have never lived up to this ideal.

I volunteered at my kids school and got put to work doing mindless, isolating cutting, or drawing pictures or chaperoning field trips which importance was questionable.

I then moved on to volunteering in computer information offices, because my degree is in Information Systems. I had to go around with paid technicians and, because volunteers were not given clearance, was not really able to do anything except plug things in. The only people I worked with at the office were a group of young Korean men who found it a chore to speak in English to me and seemed to look down on me because I was a woman.

My next experience was working in an office that oversaw other volunteers. I thought this would finally be my opportunity to work with others. Instead I was put in an isolating cubicle where I inputted information into a computer all day.

I have volunteered off and on to teach children, but again, this is isolating as you become the disciplinarian and teacher, not really the friend, of your students.

I have also looked over opportunities on volunteer websites, but they all seem similar in that they are isolating activities. Even someone who answers phones or greets people are not really connecting with anyone on any long term basis.

So I thought that the only answer was to create my own volunteer meet-up group. This group could meet twice a month and work together to do service projects for others.

Some ideas might include:

1. Create anti-smoking, anti-bullying, anti-drug, etc. presentations for elementary schools. Then video tape it for youtube.

2. Go on a volunteer vacation together.

3. Read to kids as a group- alternating readers, or put on a readers theater for a group of kids or teens.

4. Host a free parents-night-out for various poor neighborhoods with group babysitting- advertise it for young parents who need a break.

5. Host a support group for teens.

6. Tell churches and social services about your group and tell them you are willing and able to help people who are in need due to various problems- the group can clean a house, bring meals, or help someone move.

7. Hold fundraisers for various charities or give out massage gift certificates to those who need/deserve it.

8. Teach skills- advertise free classes and teach what you know.

9. Send care packages to soldiers or prisoners, including used books.

10. Write political letters, or letters to soldiers.

11. Throw a party and ask everyone to bring a donation and a can of food to be delivered to a food pantry.

12. Work at a soup kitchen together for a day.

13. Participate in Operation Christmas child.

14. Have a brainstorming session to think up many more ideas!

A lot more can be accomplished when a group works together than when working alone. Good luck!

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