You know how it feels to help someone in need…it feels good. Not only does volunteerism improve the world, it also gives the volunteer a sense of purpose and adds meaning to life. It’s an instant boost of happiness and self-esteem. Unfortunately, many productive people don’t volunteer because they can’t fit another appointment into their planner or because they are annoyed with the wasted time required at tedious volunteer training sessions.
Good news: the internet provides would-be volunteers with the chance to fit good deeds into in less time than most web surfers spend sifting through spam. You can volunteer – without leaving your house or even getting up from your desk. Here are seven ways you can fit volunteerism into your day no matter how busy you are:
- Send an email, stop a human rights violation. Every week Amnesty International’s Online Action Center sends action alerts to members of their team. All you have to do is add your name to a pre-written email message urging your state senators or other officials to take action on an urgent human rights issue. You can, of course, alter the message to suit your beliefs. It takes only a couple minutes to send the email and adding your voice can make a world of difference.
- Become a virtual mentor. In less than a half an hour a week, you can mentor kids and teens through the internet. Help young people set goals, learn study skills, deal home or school issues, and plan for a happy future. Encourage teens interested in your profession through I Could Be. Encourage kids to be successful in school through Achievement Advocate. Or, encourage foster children through Vmentor.
- Send supplies to a rural family. Many families in rural America struggle to provide their children with the necessities of life. Project Box connects sponsor volunteers with families that really need the help. Each month, send your family a box of much-needed supplies that you choose and ship yourself. For example, you might decide to mail school supplies or a small present for a child’s birthday. Get to know your family through their monthly letters, help them overcome poverty, and encourage them to have the best lives possible.
- Send cards to sick kids. All it takes is paper and a stamp to put a smile on the face of a sick child. Hugs and Hope provides volunteers with brief biographies of sick kids as well as postal addresses and email addresses. Many of the children have terminal illnesses and reading an uplifting note from a hospital bed could brighten their day.
- Use a charity shopping portal. You buy stuff online anyway – by enrolling in a charity shopping portal program, the website will donate a percent of your purchases to the charity of your choice. You don’t pay an extra dime. Check out Greater Good and iGive.
- Encourage a foster kid in college. College can be a tough time for anyone. But, it’s especially challenging for orphaned students who don’t have a family to set an example and offer support. Through an Orphans of America program, you can help brighten a lonely student’s day. Send a card with an uplifting message, a book of stamps, or a gift card.
- Add an Amber Alert ticker to your website. If you have a website or blog, you can help find missing children by displaying a real-time Amber Alert ticker. When a child can’t be found, users visiting your website will see the details. A code for Amber Alert tickers can be found at Code Amber. It takes only a couple minutes to add.
Before you dismiss volunteering because “it takes too much time,” consider how many minutes you waste every day. Each of the above projects can be completed on your own schedule, whenever you have the opportunity. Make a difference during your lunch break or while waiting in lines. It’s that easy.
Volunteering online is a simple way to do some good – and making a difference is definitely more fulfilling than mindless web surfing.
Jamie Littlefield is the Senior Editor of Children’s Issues at CharityGuide.org, a non-profit website featuring hundreds of virtual volunteer opportunities focused on children’s issues, animal welfare, environmental protection, and health and safety. Many volunteer projects can be completed in 15 minutes or less.