Last week, I shared a very personal account of the real reason I learned to appreciate ‘home’, and how I managed to rebuild a happy and safe space. Sincere thanks to everyone who reached out with notes of understanding and support both here, on Bright.Bazaar’s other channels and privately. Some of your stories were incredibly moving and I’m grateful to this platform for allowing me to have conversations with people across the country, and indeed the world, who could relate to my experiences. I also wrote how those experiences, and the process of re-finding a happy and safe home with my heartmate, have seen me come full circle via my volunteering work for Habitat for Humanity. I loved seeing comments from you guys saying how last week’s post inspired you to sign up to volunteer for your local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Thank you so much for joining me in support of this incredible organization. I know it can seem daunting to start volunteering, so, today, I wanted to share some idea starters and tips for how you can go about beginning the process of volunteering in your own community.
1. START SMALL | ‘Busy’ is most definitely a buzz word in today’s society and I get it: I feel busy too! While I undertook volunteering projects throughout my three years at university, I admittedly haven’t volunteered much since then. There’s always been an ‘excuse’ as to why I didn’t have the time. However, I’ve come to realize that all of us, me included, can almost always find some time to volunteer. Volunteering doesn’t have to mean you sign up for a long-term or regular commitment (although of course you can if you wish), it can also mean simply signing up for a one-time project that you feel moved to help with. A great example is Habitat for Humanity’s A Brush with Kindness (BWK) program which seeks volunteers for painting, planting and general improvement of public spaces in the five boroughs of NYC that lack funds for refurbishing. BWK serves over 6,000 New Yorkers each year, and has revitalized more than 100 neighborhood spaces since its launch in 2009.
2. CHECK YOUR COMPANY’S POLICY | A lot of companies offer time off for their employees so that they can take part in volunteering activities. You’d be surprised how many organizations even encourage their staff to volunteer during work hours at least once or twice a year. Start by speaking to your line report or HR department to see what policies the company has in place and go from there. If they don’t have a policy in place or you can’t take a full day to volunteer, consider proposing a revised work-hours schedule. For example, one week a month you could come in an hour early each day so that you can take Friday afternoon to volunteer.
3. MAKE IT PERSONAL | I think a lot of us are looking for meaningful interactions and experiences with people, especially our friends and/or partner. Getting in touch with friends and seeing if they would like to volunteer with you is a great way to spend quality time together. Consider replacing that boozy brunch one weekend and volunteer for three hours instead! Or, volunteer and then get brunch later. There’s always room to make time to volunteer if we feel impassioned to make it happen. Plus, spending time making a difference alongside people you love makes volunteering all the more special and memorable, too.
4. CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE | Volunteering doesn’t have to mean packing up and heading to Cambodia with Doctors Without Borders! Think local, too. For example, how about volunteering at a food kitchen in the mornings before work instead of working out/sleeping in? Or, seek out opportunities for volunteering in your lunch hour or after work. A few hours spent volunteering on either side of your 9-5 schedule can still make a huge difference in people’s lives.
5. MATCH YOUR INTERESTS | Finally, it can be difficult to know what to volunteer for and how to get involved with a project. That’s where the State Farm® Neighborhood of Good® initiative comes in handy. This is a portal where you can input your interests and it will show you a list of potential volunteering opportunities in your area. Happy volunteering, friends!