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Sponsor African Child

Children in Africa have become poster kids for charity, but they deserve more than just pity—they need real help. Many people think all they can do is donate to charitable foundations, and while it’s certainly a step in the right direction, they can help in much bigger ways without necessarily lifting an extra finger. One way to do this is to sponsor an African child.

Child sponsorship works in different ways. Some work through individual sponsorships in which donations are channeled to specific programs in education, health, or shelter, depending on the child’s needs. Others are project sponsorships, which combine several people’s donations to fund a group of initiatives in a certain community, making life a little better for all the children. Many groups work in both ways and will let you choose what kind of sponsorship you want to do.

In most cases, when you sign up to sponsor African child you are allowed to choose your child from a set of photographs and biographies. This helps you get to know your beneficiary better and form a bond even before you send in your first donation. Some people feel an instant connection to a child when they see them; others are touched upon reading their stories. Either way, it’s your means of making sure your money goes to someone who needs it the most.

Once you’ve started the sponsorship, you will be given regular updates on how the child is doing. The group may show you pictures, medical records, and school report cards to show that your beneficiary is getting the most of your donations. You may even receive handwritten letters from the child himself, or from one of his siblings or parents if they are too young to write. This is one of the most touching aspects of child sponsorship—hearing from the little boy or girl whose life you made possible, and feeling their gratitude through words and pictures.

The sponsorship group may also get in touch with you during holidays so you can send a gift, card, or both to your child. Some will even provide special stationery so all you have to do is write your message and send it in. Of course, nothing’s stopping you from sending something independently, whether or not there’s an occasion.

However you decide to help, the mere decision to help a young African is no small feat. You don’t have to transform an entire community to make a difference. Sometimes, just giving someone a hand can turn their lives around—and to think it costs little more than a fancy cup of coffee.

Nursing Volunteer Abroad

Many poor and developing countries are seriously lacking in healthcare, not least because of their meager workforce. They simply don’t have the resources to train and hire competent doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers, and their hospitals, if any, can provide little more than basic treatment.

Nursing volunteers are part of the solution to this problem. Nurses, whether active, retired, or in training, can offer hands-on assistance in impoverished clinics and help them provide better, more efficient service. Some nurses go into volunteer work while taking a break in their career, as it gives them a change of environment while allowing them to continue practicing. It’s a great way to gather experience, gain new skills, meet new people, and develop a whole new appreciation for your field.

Some organizations don’t require you to have a nursing license or a certain amount of experience, although these are always useful. As long as you have the skills and a desire to learn, you can join a nursing volunteer abroad program. Of course, positions with more responsibility will require more skills, so you may have to start with simple tasks and learn on the job. Each organization has its own rules, however, so look for one where your training and experience will be most valuable.

Most volunteer nurses help by spending one-on-one time with patients and their families, offering moral and emotional support, and assisting with movement, feeding, and personal hygiene. They are usually supervised by a charge nurse or head nurse, and may have to do a few administrative tasks such as keeping patient files and taking shifts at reception desks.

Your tasks as a nursing volunteer can vary throughout the day and week, and plans are often interrupted by emergency situations. Often, these require cooperation from several doctors and nurses. This is why resourcefulness, teamwork, and the ability to think on your feet are essential to performing well as a volunteer nurse.

You can volunteer as a nurse for as little as a week or over a year. Most organizations, however, recommend staying for at least a couple of weeks to get a real feel of how a volunteer-run clinic works. Many nurses end up working for charities after spending time as volunteers, inspired by the ability to help those in need. No matter what your decision is, the time you spend as a nursing volunteer abroad is always time well spent.

Volunteer Australia

Australia has one of the biggest volunteer communities in the world in proportion to its population. According to Volunteering Australia, more than 5 million people—a third of the adult population—do volunteer work, mostly from influence by friends and family and only marginally out of popular media. This means that at their heart, Australians are helpful people—and that makes the country one of the most attractive places to volunteer.

Volunteer Australia opportunities vary widely from area to area. Most major cities have widespread environmental projects that could use an extra hand year-round, and smaller towns are often home to healthcare and education charities offering services that residents could not access otherwise. Australians are also big animal lovers, and there are government and private animal shelters in all capitals and major suburbs.

As the coastal areas are prone to natural disasters, they are usually open to volunteers for emergency preparedness and disaster relief projects. The Queensland floods attracted lots of volunteers to help distribute resources to affected families and provide emergency care to those who were hurt. If you’re in good shape, have a background or interest in healthcare, or just have excellent people skills, this could be a good opportunity for you.

The country also has a strong environmental thrust, being home to some of the greatest land and marine wonders in the world. For most of the year, the government and various non-profits have projects in place to help preserve the country’s natural heritage and spread awareness. There are also more hands-on projects such as tree planting and shore cleanups. Whether you want to do manual work or do research and administrative support, there’s always room for volunteers in the environment circle.

If you’re visiting Australia over your break, see if there are any seasonal events you can participate in. There’s usually one going on any time of the year, and the bigger ones often need people to serve as ushers or be part of the maintenance crew. Music festivals are especially popular. Not only are you helping enhance the experience for locals and fellow visitors; you also get to meet new people.

Volunteering is one of the best ways to spend your time, whether it’s a few days or a few months—and Australia simply has a way of inspiring people to lend a helping hand. Make your next visit matter and find a volunteer project—it can change someone’s life as much as it can change yours.

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 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.

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