Category Archives: Volunteer Work

Volunteer NYC

For such a big city, New York has a pretty strong sense of community. Animal shelters, women’s centers, libraries, food banks, and all manner of goodwill can be found on just about every corner. If you’re a volunteer looking to give someone a helping hand, or a visitor who wants to do more than sight-see, there’s sure to be something in New York for you.

Start by choosing a cause you care about—volunteering is all about passion, after all. Websites like NYCservice.com allow you sift through thousands of volunteer NYC opportunities according to causes, such as education, healthcare, environment, and emergency preparedness. Groups come in all sizes and all do their part to help—you can work with a large international organization or a local charity, depending on where your skills fit best.

That’s the next thing you have to consider: what you actually have to offer. While the requirements for volunteer work aren’t as rigid—some people use it as a way to rack up experience for a future career—it still pays to choose a field that suits your skills. If you have good interpersonal skills and are good at one or two school subjects, you can sign up to a tutoring center. If you’re good with your hands and have a knack for art, a neighborhood improvement project may be best for you. New opportunities are turning up all year, so there’s never a shortage of options.

If you’re traveling to New York to volunteer, keep in mind that you’ll probably have to handle your own expenses. Very few charities, if any, will offer you a free trip—if they could, then it would be much simpler to work with locals. Make sure to arrange for a visa if you need it, travel insurance, and funding for the duration of your stay. If lodging is provided, get it down in writing and see what’s included (water, gas, utilities) so you can budget accordingly.

Volunteering isn’t always the first thing that comes to mind when we think of our free time, but it’s one of the best ways to spend a break. Whether it’s one week or six months, the time you spend helping others is valuable, not just to people in need but to others around you. Next time you have time off or are planning a trip to the Big Apple, make it a little more meaningful by squeezing in some volunteer work.

Volunteering London

Volunteer travel is often associated with poor and developing countries, but sometimes you can lend a hand closer to home. London, for example, offers ample opportunities for local and foreign volunteers, with causes ranging from environment and healthcare to various special events. If you’re planning a trip to the English capital, considering squeezing in some volunteer work and making your visit all the more meaningful.

Environmental groups are perhaps the most visible in the city, as like most metropolitan areas it has leaned towards sustainable living in recent years. Activities range from tree planting and other manual work to planning, organization, and management. Naturally you can expect to spend a lot of time outdoors and get around quite a bit, sometimes visiting neighboring cities to promote the cause.

Closely related are animal-rights groups, which offer opportunities year-round. Some of the tasks here may be specialized and require some training and experience. For instance, if you want to work directly with animals, a background in veterinary science or similar volunteer work may come in handy. Otherwise, you can provide support in other ways such as organizing paperwork, writing up letters and reports, and taking phone calls.

If you’re more of a people person, you may want to consider working in healthcare or education. These groups usually help low-income families or abuse victims, providing them with food, lodging, and treatment for illness and injuries. You may also find book giveaways and tutoring sessions for children, and counseling services for teens and adults.

There are also seasonal events, which cater largely to people of specific interests. In particular, the London Olympics in 2012 is boosting interest among volunteering London residents. While an interest in sports is a plus, some of the jobs are open to all, such as ushering and maintenance. As an added perk, you may also get discount access to some of the games and visit all the different venues.

As with most volunteer travel programs, you may have to pay for your own trip, as well as travel insurance and visas. Coordinating with a larger group can help you deal with the paperwork and arrange for lodging, which is usually provided. On the whole, it should cost about as much as a regular vacation. But even if it sets you back a good amount, there’s no price tag on being able to help others, meeting new people, and gaining valuable professional and personal experiences.

Volunteer Haiti

Haiti isn’t everyone’s idea of a tropical paradise, at least not after the earthquake that tore into its capital in 2009. But if you’re looking for a meaningful vacation, it just might be the destination for you.

Natural disasters aside, countries like Haiti have always needed a helping hand, whether it’s caring for the sick or teaching kids who can’t afford to go to school. Volunteer Haiti programs cover everything from education and healthcare to environment, animal rights, women and children’s welfare, and disaster assistance. You can choose to work in fields you specialize in, or try something new and learn on the job.

In most cases you can choose the duration of your stay, although many volunteers decide to stay longer than initially planned. Some even decide to make a career out of charity work after finishing a volunteer Haiti program. To get the most of your experience, it’s best to stay at least a week. That’s the length of a typical vacation, but unlike your usual beach getaway, it leaves you with that happy feeling that you’ve helped change someone’s life.

Start by looking up charities in your area that may be of help, or local chapters of large organizations like the Red Cross. Most of them will have information on volunteer openings and requirements, as well as travel details. You may have to pay for your own trip and travel insurance, but chances are the organization will provide lodging and a bit of training.

You usually have to be at least 18 to be able to volunteer abroad. Depending on the task, you may have to meet other requirements, such as physical strength if you’ll be doing manual work and some hospital experience if you want to work in healthcare. People skills and a grasp of French, the local language, can also come in handy. What’s great about volunteering is that you get valuable experience to help you professionally, whether you choose to stay in charity or work elsewhere afterwards.

Volunteer opportunities are always subject to change because of the country’s political instability and proneness to natural disasters. Make sure any information you get is recent, and that the projects you want to help out on are still active. It’s not uncommon for an initiative to be aborted because of political or environmental pressures. Stay on the safe side by getting your information over the phone or in person, and getting everything in writing.

Jobs in Charity Sector

If you think working in charity is for retirees with nothing else to do, think again. More and more young people are choosing to work in non-profits and charities, some even making it their long-term careers. The charity sector is less competitive, more hands-on, and often just as fun and challenging as the corporate world, and its workforce is decidedly more passionate about their cause.

Charity sector jobs may not be at par with corporate jobs in terms of pay, but they offer a world of other benefits. For one thing, there’s less competition as the groups tend to be smaller, and jobs are more results-oriented than profit-oriented. This takes a lot of the pressure away from the work and makes for a more relaxing work environment. You may even get to travel more than a typical cubicle employee, as help needs to get around all the time. Indeed, many young graduates pick jobs in charity sector precisely because of the travel possibilities.

A common concern among charity workers is professional growth. The organizational structure in most charities is horizontal, meaning people perform different tasks but are more or less on the same level. You may be given more responsibility, but not necessarily more authority. This contrasts with the typical company in which everyone has a boss, who in turn answers to a higher boss, and so on. This works well if you’re more comfortable working with a team rather than managing one.

There are dozens of charities in every city, from small local outfits to international organizations. The key is to find something whose cause you care about and whose views you share. After all, working in charity is largely about passion. If you love animals, you’d do well in an animal-rights group or an animal shelter, even if your job involves mostly paperwork. Just knowing that you’re contributing to a meaningful cause makes the job even more enjoyable, and makes you a valuable member of the team.

The most important thing about charity work is that it’s always for a good cause. Charities are founded and run by people who want to make a difference, and helping them is your way of giving them a hand. Few other people can say that they’ve helped make the world a better place, even if it was one week of work. Whether or not you make charity your career—and whether you do paid or volunteer work—it’s the kind of experience you’ll take with you long after you’ve left.

Charity Trips

They say you don’t really travel if you don’t go beyond the museums and coffee houses. If you want to be more than a visitor on your next trip, consider going on a volunteer holiday. You still get the thrill of being in a new place and meeting new people, but with the added perk of being able to help others. How’s that for a learning experience?

Charity trips can take you to all sorts of places: you could be teaching African preschoolers this year, helping at a Mexican clinic the following year, and saving manatees in Southeast Asia the next. You never leave without making a difference in your destination, and every new place in turn makes an indelible mark on you. As an added perk, it counts as professional experience, meaning you can use it to beef up your résumé and make contacts for future work.

Most volunteer vacations last one to four weeks, a typical summer or holiday break in most developed countries. In that span of time you can meet new people, pick up a new language, learn a new culture, and help improve the lives of others. Often, team members form a sort of family, and stay friends throughout their lives. Whether it’s the location, the experience, or the nature of the work, charities have a way of connecting people that no corporate workplace or classroom can.

People usually have to pay for their own charity trips, although agencies can arrange for a fixed fee and take care of everything else. This is because non-profit agencies still spend money on recruiting and coordination, as well as all the government paperwork. You can expect to spend as little as $50 for a small local gig, or upwards of $3,000 for volunteer work abroad, mostly depending on the type of accommodation provided. Some of the money may also be directly donated to the cause. That being said, some projects do reward you with a stipend, usually if it lasts more than a month.

In any case, it’s always money well spent. Experience is priceless, after all—and you can’t put a dollar value on what a free book can do for a kid with no access to a school, or what a short talk on family planning can do for an underfed village. The benefits of a charity trip are always mutual. You always leave knowing you wouldn’t have traded it for anything else.

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