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Getting started with volunteering
by Horsefeathers. October 6th 2014, 12:21 AM

Getting started with volunteering
By Harrison (BravestLittleHobbit) and Sammi (Masquerade.)

Do you ever find yourself getting bored over the holidays? Being away from school for so long can result in running out of things to do. Sometimes, the holidays seem to drag on, and you find yourself constantly trying to find ways to fill your time. Volunteering for something in your local community can be a great way to kill time, expand your résumé/CV and give back to your community. Besides that, there's the rewarding feeling that comes with knowing that you're doing something good for someone else, especially during the holidays.

There are a lot of ways to get involved in volunteering. Some of these are community based activities which you can take part in whilst other volunteer activities can often be found closer to home. Additionally, you can find activities which involve working on your own, or where you can work in groups. You can work with friends or family members.The length of time it might take to complete a project can vary - some are long-term, while many others are short-term. At the end of the day, there's something out there for everyone.

Different types of volunteering will involve different tasks, and you should consider what you would enjoy doing most before choosing where to volunteer.
  • Community based volunteering: In your community there might be a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter. Depending on where you live, and the demand for volunteers, it can be very easy to get involved in something like this, because these places rarely have enough volunteers. Particularly around the holidays, they may need extra help. The work that these places do helps some of the most vulnerable people in the community, so they are usually grateful for your help. It also gives you the opportunity to connect with people whom you may never have met without the experience. These people can have some interesting stories, and there's a good chance you'll learn something from at least one of them. It can teach you a lot, especially about being thankful for the things you have. Of course, knowing that you have helped someone feels really good too!
  • Volunteering closer to home: During the winter, depending on where you live, snow can cause massive inconvenience for people, especially the elderly or disabled. If it snows in your area, offer to shovel snow from yards, driveways, or sidewalks and then grit them (add salt). There are also other volunteer opportunities around, like babysitting while parents go out to holiday parties, or catch up on some last minute shopping. You can also volunteer to house/pet sit for people when they go away on vacation. Another thing you can do is bring a meal or grocery shop for an elderly or disabled individual in your neighborhood. These helpful gestures can go a long way to improving someone's day. In other months there are still plenty of volunteering opportunities. Dog walking, raking leaves and helping out with someone's garden are all wonderful options that can brighten someone else's day.
  • If volunteering on your own is something that doesn't appeal to you, try to make it a group activity. Get some family or friends together, and find something that you can all do together. Perhaps you can bring gifts or read stories to patients in a children's hospital. Many animal shelters call for groups of people to take pets to the mall or other local hot-spots to try to get animals adopted. Even picking up trash in a local park or a busy street could be a fulfilling activity to do together.

As important as it is to find a project that you will enjoy doing, it is equally as important to think about how much time you can dedicate to volunteering. While some projects are short-term, others can take much more time and be a more permanent commitment. Because of that, it is important that you think about your current schedule, in order to determine whether or not a project is realistic for you to take on.
  • Short-Term Projects: Short term projects can range from a few hours to a week. Projects of this nature could include volunteering at a local animal shelter, helping to prepare a meal for those without homes, or tutoring someone after school. For shorter projects, there is not necessarily a lot of commitment required, which makes it much easier to make time for. This type of volunteer work is usually quite enjoyable and is perfect if you have a busy schedule, but still want to give back.
  • Long-Term Projects: Long term projects vary much more in length. They could last a few weeks, a few months, or a few years. These projects require a greater commitment, as training is generally involved before the actual project can even begin. Projects of this nature might include helping to build a home for a family in need, spending your summer as a leader at a youth camp, or helping to organize a large-scale event. These types of projects can also be extremely enjoyable and, as an added bonus, can help boost a résumé when applying for jobs. You also get to see the results of your hard work play out from start to finish when volunteering in a longer project. This type of volunteer work is something you need to think about before committing your time and energy, but it is definitely worthwhile.

There are many different organizations which you can volunteer for (including TeenHelp!), and it's easy to find many opportunities simply by looking up local charities on Google, or visiting some. Community locations (such as park or school noticeboards) tend to have posters advertising events, which may lead you to different charities or organizations which you can volunteer for.

The important thing about volunteering is that you do it for free! It doesn’t matter who you are helping, or what jobs you are doing - someone, somewhere will appreciate it.
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