Be the Change: Volunteer Opportunities for Your Holiday Time

Be the Change: Volunteer Opportunities for Your Holiday Time

Summer is approaching, and for many young people, this means a lot of free time. For others, it’s a season of holidays and travelling, but what about making a difference? 

Volunteering is a fantastic way to spend your summer break or even family holidays, developing new skills, helping others, making an impact, and all while having fun. This guide will equip you with the knowledge and resources to find the perfect summer volunteer opportunity.

Benefits of Volunteering

First of all, volunteering provides benefits far beyond helping others and making an impact. 

  • Volunteers may contribute to the economic development of the area through an increase in resources, knowledge transfer and skill development. 
  • It can support social development through the promotion of cross-cultural understanding, vivid engagement, and community participation. 

"Humans are social creatures, and cooperation has been essential to our evolutionary success. Helping others not only benefits them, but it also strengthens social bonds and increases our chances of survival."

Evolutionary Theory
Volunteering benefits - personal growth
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Through these experiences, we can learn from each other and widen our perspectives on the world. Moreover, volunteering can also be a transformative experience for the volunteers themselves. Compassion, the feeling of concern for another's suffering and the desire to help, literally activates parts of our brain. Interestingly, these same areas are also linked to reward and motivation. This suggests that acts of compassion, like volunteering, can be intrinsically rewarding, lighting up the pleasure centres in the brain. By helping others, we not only contribute to their well-being but also experience positive emotions ourselves.

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others."

Mahatma Gandhi 

Studies show that volunteering activities promote our social, mental, and physical health as well as well-being. Engaging in impactful activities fosters a sense of purpose and responsibility, further helping us to develop leadership skills. Even the youth can benefit, as long-term positive effects have been recorded. By actively contributing to environmental solutions and social action, young people gain valuable knowledge and build confidence to advocate for change.

Guide to Volunteering

There are many different ways of volunteering, and in most cases, you don’t need extra experience. However, if you do have special skills, many organisations need volunteers with specific skill sets to help with tasks like legal aid, financial counselling, or website development. Let us guide you through the most common categories:

  • Social Services: Eg. homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or food banks. You could also assist with senior care, disability support, or crisis intervention programs.
  • Education: Support children and adults in their learning journeys by volunteering as a tutor, mentor, after-school program helper, or literacy coach.
  • Animals: You can care for and walk animals at shelters, assist in wildlife rehabilitation centres or foster animals in your home.
  • Environment: Volunteering for conservation efforts, park clean-up projects, tree planting initiatives, or community gardens.
  • Arts & Culture: Share your passion for art, music, or history by volunteering at museums, libraries, theatres, or historical societies.
  • International Development: Use your skills to support communities abroad through organisations focused on education, healthcare, or infrastructure development.

Finding Your Perfect Fit

Now that you have an idea of the possibilities, here's how to decide which volunteering opportunity aligns with your interests and skills:

  1. Self-reflection:
    • What are you passionate about?
    • What skills and experiences can you contribute?
    • Do you prefer working with animals, people, or the environment?
    • How much time can you realistically commit?
    • Are you comfortable working independently or as part of a team?
  2. Explore your options:
    • Research volunteer opportunities online or through local community centres, non-profit organisations, animal shelters, rescue groups, or government agencies.
    • Talk to friends and family who volunteer to get recommendations.
    • Consider attending volunteer fairs or information sessions to learn more about different institutions.
    • If you are going on holiday, you can research the specific location and tailor your experiences based on that.
  3. Interview the organisation:
    • Don't hesitate to ask questions about the volunteer role and the company's mission.
    • Make sure the values and goals align with your own.
    • Inquire about training and support provided to volunteers.

Remember, volunteering is a two-way stream. You should feel excited and fulfilled by the experience. Choose an opportunity that allows you to use your talents, make a difference, and grow as a person.

Summer Volunteer Opportunities

Many of us think about volunteering as an individual experience, something that we mostly do locally in our spare time. But volunteering can also be a way of more sustainable travelling, giving something back to the culture and locals. Whether you are alone or with your family, volunteering can create a truly unique bonding experience that enriches you and many others.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

Family Volunteering Ideas

Ditch the usual beach routine and swap souvenirs for service! This summer, families can trade flip-flops for work boots and turn their vacation into a life-changing experience through volunteering. These shared experiences not only strengthen family bonds but also broaden horizons and leave a lasting positive impact on the communities they visit. 

Instead of learning about foreign cultures in the museum, learn directly from the locals. Instead of listening to a tour guide, lend a hand in restoring ancient landmarks. Don’t forget to research and tailor your experience based on the interests of the family members. And even if you don’t find an organisation like you wish to, you can always grab a bin and start collecting trash around beaches or parks; just remember to dispose of the trash properly. 

Family friendly volunteering - volunteer with family
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So, this summer, skip the typical tourist traps and embark on a volunteer adventure that will create memories and make a real difference. And after you return from this trip, you and your family can keep volunteering in your local area. You can go for example, tree planting regularly, even if it’s just a few times a year. Why not spend family time doing something impactful while creating everlasting memories? 

Travellers Volunteering Guide

Do you crave adventure and cultural immersion? Volunteering while you travel allows you to combine your wanderlust with meaningful work. The project possibilities are vast, ranging from animal care and teaching English to construction projects in developing countries or environmental cleanups. Volunteering lets you delve into a new culture, learn new skills, explore a different way of life, and make a positive impact all at once.

Volunteering while travelling
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Individual Volunteering Tips

Maybe you're not planning a trip but still want to volunteer. The beauty of individual volunteering is the ability to focus on a cause you're truly passionate about. Do you love animals? Volunteer at your local shelter. Are you concerned about homelessness? Soup kitchens and homeless shelters need your help. Do you like scrolling through social media? Help non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with content and social media management. The options are endless, from environmental cleanups and mentoring programs to working at a community garden or even on your laptop. Individual volunteering allows you to make a difference in your own community, gain valuable experience, learn new skills, and connect with like-minded people.

Individual volunteer at animal shelter
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No matter your age, background, or travel plans, there's a volunteer opportunity waiting for you. Do your research, choose a project that aligns with your interests, and get ready to make a difference!

More Tips Up Our Sleeves 

Leveraging Social Media

The power of social media can be harnessed to promote these volunteer opportunities and inspire others. Young people can create engaging content showcasing their experiences and encouraging peers to get involved.

Managing Expectations

Volunteering can be challenging and not always glamorous. Be prepared for hard work and a different pace of life. Consider local volunteering before embarking on a larger project abroad. This helps you gauge your interest and preparedness. 

Local volunteer at food shelter
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Remember that volunteering often doesn’t bring any short-term visible effects, but maybe that can be simply another way of engaging with the locals and your community. Stay in touch with them and check in on the project to see the long-term result that you were part of. 

Time Commitment

Be realistic about the time you can dedicate. Don't sign up for a month-long program if your trip is only two weeks long. Nonetheless, even short trips can include volunteering! Research local opportunities like beach clean-ups or helping at a soup kitchen.

Budgeting

Some volunteering programs, especially long-term ones, may involve program fees, travel costs, and living expenses. Factor these into your trip planning. You can look for volunteer programs that offer work exchange opportunities, allowing you to volunteer in exchange for accommodation and meals. You can also consider volunteering with a local organisation to minimise travel costs and program fees; however, volunteering while travelling is also an amazing way of giving back to the locals and making your trip more sustainable. 

Want to volunteer abroad but struggle financially? Consider these:

  • Set up an online fundraising page or organise events to raise money for your trip.
  • Several institutions offer scholarships and grants specifically for volunteer programs. Research and apply for ones that align with your project. These are a few of our tips, but you can find many more financial aid opportunities:

Popular Websites To Start Your Volunteering Journey

The internet offers a vast world of volunteer opportunities, but navigating it all can be overwhelming. We compiled a list of popular websites that can connect you with the perfect volunteer program that aligns with your interests and goals. Let's explore some of the top resources to kickstart your volunteering journey!

  • The European Solidarity Corps offers a wealth of volunteering opportunities in many different fields, from digital technologies to health and the environment.
  • Volunteer Match is a highly popular and user-friendly volunteering platform.
  • A global hub called the Idealist has a variety of nonprofit organisations that need your help.
  • Points of Light Engage pulls volunteer opportunities from sites around the web to provide the most comprehensive database of volunteer opportunities.
  • Catchafire caters to volunteers with specific skills and expertise.
  • United Nations Volunteers (UNV) offers opportunities for individuals to work on international development projects. 
  • For travellers, Go Overseas offers a directory of volunteer opportunities abroad.
  • Volunteer World offers an extensive range of volunteer projects, from environmental conservation to social work.
  • Make a sustainable impact while boosting your personal and professional growth with GVI. This platform also contains online opportunities.

 

Bibiana
Article by Bibiana Eva Bartschova. I am an impact-driven researcher from the Czech Republic. My passion for volunteering led me to Green Cloud Nine, as an editor I am able to share with you knowledge contributing to a better world. Join me  and explore the world through the lens of compassion.

 

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Article also published in our founder's blog: My Shade of Green