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Teens Volunteer – Opportunities in Service to Nonprofits
Volunteering offers some great rewards – even if you do it because you have to! It really doesn’t matter that much why you volunteer. I hope you’re looking forward to it, but I think you’ll enjoy it even if you’re a little anxious now. Some teenagers just love the idea of doing something for someone else. Maybe your parents are volunteers or maybe someone helped you in the past and now you would like to do something nice. Other teens have to volunteer because their school requires community service, or because they got in trouble and “volunteering” is their punishment.
If you can choose where to volunteer, there are many options. Generally you will be helping a non-profit organization. You can check Wikipedia (which is itself a non-profit organization) for the definition. Here is my short version:
An organization that provides funding, services, programs or information to the general public, without making money from it.
Makes sense? Here are some of the main categories of nonprofits:
- Environment – this could be the global Sierra Club or a local recycling group
- Humanitarian aid – such as the Red Cross helping where there is war or an earthquake
- Animal protection – there are national organizations and local shelters
- Education – many private schools, summer programs, preschools, libraries and community schools are non-profit (this is different from a public school, which is run by the local government)
- The arts – major museums and theaters or the local gallery, playhouse or choir
- Social issues – organizations that work to change or improve conditions for people (racism, homelessness, prejudice) or help people in difficult situations (providing food, shelter, counselling). Clubs like the Boy Scouts would also be in this category
- Charities – generally exist to give money to not-for-profit organisations, may be trusts or foundations
- Healthcare – many hospitals are non-profit and there are many organizations working to find cures for diseases such as the American Cancer Society
- Politics – usually groups are formed to support a candidate or party, they can be national or local
- Religion – all religions in the United States are considered non-profit organizations
- Sports – such as a local league or physical sport
I think you should have fun, be creative and learn when you volunteer. As a teenager, you’re probably starting to have some ideas about what you want to do with your life (and a lot of adults are probably nagging you about it). When you volunteer, you get to explore something you’ve never tried before. That’s the cool part.
Of course, there’s a chance someone wants you to do community service that’s boring, boring, or just not your thing. If that happens, you need to come up with some ideas of your own so you can choose!
Think about your skills and interests. What do you like to do when you have a choice? What are you good at, what do you get complimented on? At this point in your life – YES, YOU – you have some talents that make you very special. This is your chance to use them.
Go back and read it again if you still feel like you don’t want to do community service!
What I’m going to give you here is a list of ideas. They may not work for you, they may not be available in your neighborhood, or you may not like them. BUT there is enough here to make you think. Your volunteer work can be something that exists (like volunteering at a hospital) or something that you create. If you are earning your Eagle or Girl Scout gold award, you will need to create your own.
Here it goes:
- Do you love the arts? Look for a non-profit performing arts center or theater in your city. Find out what you can do for them, like working the cash register or being an usher. Make sure you can see the shows for free!
- Do you want to help homeless families? Check with your church, temple or mosque. Many communities have a Family Promise or Interfaith Hospitality Network program. Families with children stay in the churches for a week at a time. You could play with the children, cook a meal or provide entertainment.
- Interested in gardening or farming? You might want to start by volunteering at a public garden or farm. From there you can start your own community gardening. Ask the city for a small plot of land to use and invite the community to participate.
- Are you a natural organizer? Consider organizing a ride. You could collect food (for a local pantry), coats, gloves or hats or blankets. You should find out where you can donate them and get a storage space at your home, school or church. You should be able to get free newspaper publicity. (Make it even more interesting, ask people to buy fleece throws and you decorate them…)
- In music? Create a choir or band and provide entertainment in nursing homes, shelters, orphanages or public spaces.
- Love the animals; Volunteer to walk and feed the dogs at a local shelter or train to work at a zoo.
- Do you have experiences to share? You can write about them or talk about them in your age groups. Many organizations that work with children will be interested in them. If you were adopted, you could talk about it. If you had a parent die or move away, share it. Organizations working with teenagers may have a teen advisory board, check.
Ask friends, family, teachers and neighbors for ideas. Go online or in the phone book for contact information. Hate making calls? (me too!) have a co-worker (or parent) make the initial call and find out who might be interested in your services. Then go see them.
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