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Archive for April, 2011

Do-it (UK)

Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

royal wedding social media twitter  Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge smile following their marriage at Westminster Abbey

Photo: telegraph.co.uk

I am in London today for the wedding of Prince William and Princess Catherine.  The royal couple invited me to volunteer during their wedding celebration.  I will be helping pour champagne for the more than 650 guests at the reception.

OK, that was a lie.  I’m not in London nor have I been invited to volunteer at the royal wedding (although if they want to reach out some time for me to do some volunteering that would be cook too.)  I did however think that it would be appropriate to either get a Kindness Investor from the UK this week or do a blog post focusing on a British organization helping individuals volunteer.

do-it logoDo-it, a volunteer portal operated by YouthNet, claimed to be the first national database of volunteer opportunities in the UK when it was founded in 2001.  Since then it has grown to be a leading connector between good organizations and people doing good.

The majority of opportunities on Do-it come from local volunteer centers in England. These organizations secure the hardware, software and training so that they can upload their vacancies onto the Do-it database.  In addition, some large national and international organizations post on Do-it as well.

So when all the pomp and circumstance is done over in Old Blighty I hope my English readers will check out Do-it and find a cause that they feel passionate about and find out how they can help them!  Trust me, it’s easy.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

“Imagine making a meaningful difference in the lives of others, while discovering amazing cultures, people and places!”

These are the words that greet you when you fire up the website of Wellington, New Zealand based Global Volunteer Network (GVN).  That’s right; today’s spotlight on volunteering takes a unique perspective.  What if you could combine your interest in traveling with your passion for volunteering?  Well, that is just what GVN has done.Volunteer Abroad with the Global Volunteer Network

Colin Salisbury

GVN Founder and President, Colin Salisbury

Founded in 2000 by Colin Salisbury after he volunteered in Ghana,West Africa, GVN has placed more than 14,000 individuals to about two dozen countries around the world.  Although I couldn’t find a concrete answer on their website, it appears that most volunteer opportunities last for about a week or two.

I like this concept that many people refer to as voluntourism or humanitarian tourism.  Having traveled to 30+ countries and lived in four, I have often seen how tourists to developing countries are perceived.  “They come and open their wallets,” a restaurant owner in Brazil once shared with me, “but they don’t necessarily open their hearts to the local challenges that we face every day.”

A few years ago my friend Kim spent her vacation in New Orleans helping rebuild a community that was devastated by Katrina.    She found the experience to be fun and really rewarding.

Vietnam Youth Tour

Photo courtesy of globalvolunteernetwork.org

One of the program’s that I like most that GVN provides is their Youth Tour which gives 15-17 year olds the chance to explore a new part of the world while learning a life-long lesson of service.  This year their trip is to Vietnam.  Click here for more details.

A recent post on the New York Times blog by Heidi Mitchell focuses on Voluntourism.  If you are considering your volunteer trip, I recommend checking her article out to familiarize yourself with GVN and other groups providing similar services.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

When I was 15-years-old there was only one thing stood between me and the rank of Eagle Scout.  This high distinction in Scouting is marked by the completion of a Leadership Service Project where candidates must conceptualize a project that will benefit their community and then successfully manage a team of other Scouts in order to complete the task.  I chose to organize a region-wide food drive to collect non-perishable items and donate them to an organization that would ensure that they would reach individuals and families in need.


After reviewing potential benefactors to receive the collected food, I chose New Hope Ministries (NHM) – a Christian social service agency that provides assistance to community members in times of need and supports their efforts toward stability.  My project resulted in thousands of donated items.

DSC_0036.jpg

In addition to food, NHM needs toiletry items and financial donations to finish their kitchen and add a chair lift to the 2nd floor.

Goose bumps wisped over my skin as I walked into their new facility 22 years later.  I was in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania helping my father recover from knee surgery and I took a few hours off to go and help NHM out.  I was scheduled to be folding letters and stuffing envelopes for an appreciation dinner the organization will hold in June for all the volunteers who have helped NHM achieve their goals throughout the year.

Every single person I had contact with there was delightful.  Kindness flowed freely from every staff member with whom I interacted – Joanne, Molly and Sue – as well as my two follow envelope-stuffers – Brenda and Silvia.  The work might sound boring, but the three of us had a lot of fun.

DSC_0024.jpgAfter two hours of folding and stuffing and successfully avoiding paper cuts, Sue Fornicola, the program manager, kindly offered the three of us a tour of their new facility.  It hardly resembles the building I had visited as a teenager.  I think the most impressive areas were the food pantry and the food warehouse.  It is a very professional operation.

Although it’s easy to be distracted by the well run food pantry, NHM is much more than just a pantry.  They also provide:

  • rent/mortgage assistance to prevent homelessness
  • prescription, medical, dental and eye care assistance
  • utility assistance to prevent termination of service
  • transportation assistance
  • counseling
DSC_0028.jpg

I like this photo. It was hanging in the room where we were stuffing envelopes.

But what I discovered through my time at NHM is that their real gift to the individuals who walk through their doors is something far more valuable than bags of groceries or assistance paying rent.  They give people the love and support that they need to pull themselves up.  They give them hope.

Click here to donate to NHM

Click here to volunteer with NHM

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Easter Egg Dying

Photo: Luz Bratcher

Happy Easter to those of you celebrating Easter today.

I thought I would mix it up today and share a different type of volunteer resource with you today.  Volunteer.gov is volunteer portal that connects US citizens with volunteer opportunities with various local, state and federal agencies.  The portal was launched in 2002 by then President George W. Bush.

To my knowledge this was the first time such a resource had been rolled out nationwide.

So how does it work?  You just go to www.volunteer.gov and search for volunteer opportunities in your area that meet your interest.  For example I choose DC and then typed in “Parks” for the keyword and it churned out 12 different volunteer opportunities in the area that involved parks.  There were several activities; from maintaining parks to being a docent to my favorite of them all: counting non-migratory Canada Geese.

Once you’ve found an activity that you like, you register and notifications are sent immediately to both you and the activity coordinator.

Some agencies have some specific requirements, but their Website notes two general requirements:

  • A sense of solidarity and service, plus commitment to share one’s knowledge, skills, time, and effort with others (the volunteering “ethos” or spirit).
  • A willingness to serve in a non-salaried, non-stipend volunteer position with no or little remuneration beyond incidental expenses (arranged on a case-by-case basis and subject to the availability of funds).

If you have volunteered through Volunteer.gov before, please consider sharing your experience here.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

This is my fourth day of focusing on the great resources that we have to volunteer opportunities.  Have you signed up for one of the organizations that I have showcased?  Are you going to?  I hope so.

Today’s organization is One Brick, an organization headquartered in San Francisco that brings volunteers together to support other local non-profits.  They try to create a friendly and social atmosphere around volunteering by inviting the volunteers to a social event after volunteering.  So you might work at a community kitchen for a few hours and then find yourself having a coffee or beer with the other volunteers.

Although I really like what these guys are doing, they have a much smaller footprint than the other organizations that I have highlighted so far.  They currently have operations in the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, Chicago, Washington DC., Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Seattle and Orlando.  This boutique volunteer shop reported more than 65,000 hours last year.  That’s impressive, but I can’t help but think back to my recent visit to the Junior League of Atlanta and how amazing that group is.  I recall that their membership provided over 90,000 hours of community service last year.  That’s amazing.

Some DC volunteers with One Brick help out Books to Prisoners

If you live in a One Brick city, sign up and check out the cool opportunities that they have to offer.  The website is very easy to use.  I’m actually in the process of signing up for my first volunteer gig with them.

Have you already volunteered through One Brick?  Why not leave a comment here and share your experience.

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

Today is Earth Day and I can’t think of a more appropriate volunteer resource today than the Earth Day Network (EDN) website.  They have an entire list of events happening all around the United States and even some international countries as well.  Punch in your zip code and start browsing for events near you.  They need a lot of volunteers.  And remember, there are still plenty of events happening after today!

Earth Day started on this day back in 1970 when 20 million Americans brought the environmental concerns of our Earth to the streets in protest.  Check out this news footage from 1970! These efforts along with those of conservation pioneers like my employer, World Wildlife Fund, served as a catalyst for future conservation efforts and legislation around the world.

More than 1 billion people are expected to participate in Earth Day activities this year according to EDN, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

While you’re on EDN’s website, check out the section called A Billion Acts of Green®.  This is their initiative to collect over one billion commitments for a greener world from average Joes like us as well as organizations.  They hope to reach their goal before the global Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 2012.

Tomorrow’s environment is far too important to ignore and we owe future generations the very same benefits of the rich biodiversity that we enjoy today.  What will you do to help?

Keep a look out in the coming weeks for my blog post about my volunteer project for Earth Day!

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Blog post by Reed from Washington, DC

One of the places that I find myself going back to time and again to search for volunteer opportunities is VolunteerMatch.  While the system is not perfect, it is probably the most comprehensive website with national coverage that you will find.  These guys are the match.com of the volunteer universe.  Yesterday I wrote about Sparked, the leader in virtual microvolunteering, VolunteerMatch is a much broader platform for discovering face to face and virtual volunteer opportunities of all kinds, including microvolunteering.

The history of this volunteer matching powerhouse goes back to the early nineties when a team of four were sitting around trying to figure out what to do with their MBA degrees.  They ended up pulling together a plan in 1994 to launch an online nonprofit that would promote community involvement.

Fast forward nearly twenty years and you have VolunteerMatch which last year welcomed 8.4 million visitors!  In a nutshell what they are doing is strengthening communities by making it easier for do-gooders to connect with organizations doing good in order to create greatness.

If you are passionate about volunteering and have not checked out their website, go there NOW and sign up.  You plug in your location and a few key words about your interests in volunteering and voilà!  You’ve got a list of opportunities to volunteer right in front of you.  Choose the one you want and they exchange your information with the organization and your set.

My experience is that I usually get contacted by the organization within 24-48 hours, but if not, you get their contact information as well and can reach out to them.

Although they do have the option to search for virtual volunteer opportunities, my feeling is that Sparked has established itself as best in class in that arena.

You can read about two of my recent volunteer outings that I found on VolunteerMatch: the MS Society and the Arthritis Foundation.

Stop reading this and go sign up!

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