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.