Virtual Volunteering – 10 ways you can make a difference even while social distancing!

Let’s give the world as much kindness as we can right now. Virtual volunteering makes it possible for teens (and adults!) to make a difference in the world, even during the pandemic.

Our teen volunteers have the opportunity to meet up on Monday afternoons via Zoom to socialize while we’re volunteering, but it’s not required (visit our Event Calendar and look for the next “Virtual Monday Teen Volunteers” to sign up to receive the Zoom link).

So how can you make a difference in your community while in the midst of social distancing restrictions? Here are some suggestions for virtual volunteering (but you can certainly come up with your own ideas as well):

Virtual Volunteer Idea #1: Sew masks for those in need

Right now, there’s a need for reusable cloth medical masks for those in the at-risk population and for people in higher-risk jobs. You can easily make the masks by following along with tutorials and can organize donating these to the people who need them most.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #2: Become a virtual tutor

With more kids across the country shifting to online learning, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved in helping anyone struggling with school. The simplest way for you to become a virtual volunteer tutor is by letting your teacher know you are available, or check out sites like TeensGive.org. If you’re really good at a subject, offer to tutor kids through Zoom or FaceTime.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #3: Play games with seniors over video

There are many vulnerable populations feeling isolated, and this is especially true for seniors who aren’t able to have visitors. Set up a virtual game night or hangout with the seniors in your life, or those living at a local nursing home. This helps foster a greater sense of belonging and helps mental health all around. You can read more on SeniorsLiving.org.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #4: Start a fundraiser

There are plenty of organizations that need funds right now. Start with something local. One example is to host a fundraiser to purchase gift cards for gasoline to the staff of your local hospital. Here are some great fundraising ideas for you to try out.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #5: Write, write write!

There are so many ways to connect with people even when we have to remain physically distant. Bringing back the lost art of writing is a good way to volunteer. Check out this list of virtual pen pal resources to find out how to connect with other kids around the world. Alternatively, say thank you to front line workers or send letters to soldiers far from home or to patients in the hospital. Nothing warms the heart like a handwritten note.

Write your local officials. We have Representatives, Senators, and a Governor whose jobs are to represent their constituents–that’s us. So, write your elected officials about what they can do to help during this time. Some ideas are getting appropriate N95 masks for healthcare professionals, securing more ventilators for hospitals, giving financial aid to people that have lost their jobs and businesses, or putting rent and mortgage payments on hold.You can send your letter to them online here.

Write a letter to the president of the United States. Why not just take it to the top? Your voice could be the key to getting legislation passed that will serve others and even our country as a whole. You can send him an email or a letter.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #6: Start a petition

You can take up a cause for your local town and drive a petition through Change.org. Think locally by focusing on your school or community. (https://www.change.org/start-a-petition)

Virtual Volunteer Idea #7: Share social media posts for important actions, fight cyberbullying. 

For those of you with social media profiles, sharing important information from health officials or other community organizations is a great way for you to help virtually. Sharing posts from American Red Cross about giving blood, phone numbers for helplines for kids, or accurate information on the coronavirus are all simple, but important ways to help. More kids than ever are depending on social media for social interaction, which makes cyberbullying even more likely. Help keep kids safe online by joining organizations like Tweenangels or Teenangels. Or just do your part to stop bullying rather than perpetuating it.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #8: Sign up to help transcribe historical documents or update Wikipedia pages

If you are into history, there are some interesting volunteer opportunities with the Smithsonian who can help transcribe historical documents and update relevant Wikipedia pages. You can use your love for learning and make an impact in these important organizations.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #9: Sew blankets or cage comforters 

There are so many kids and animals in need, and comfort items like blankets can make a big difference. Volunteering with an organization like BinkyPatrol or Project Linus is a great way to give back. Right now, they’re also looking for donations for cloth masks as well.

Virtual Volunteer Idea #10: Lend your eyesight for the blind or those of low vision

Pair up with an organization like BeMyEyes.  BeMyEyes is a completely virtual service,  done over a blind person’s smart phone using the camera, and allows sighted volunteers aged 17 or older to directly help a blind or low-vision person with daily tasks. You can sign up to get paired with a person in need. That person might need help with tasks like checking expiration dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions, or navigating new surroundings.

Here are some more general ideas:

  • Clean out your closets. Use this free time to declutter your space. Pull out all clothes, toys, games, books, etc. that you no longer use. If they’re in good shape, gather them together and donate them to organizations like the Salvation Army, Goodwill, and Habitat for Humanity.
  • Share your talents. Do you sing? Play the guitar? Dance? Take amazing photos? Burp the alphabet? Jump online and offer some free lessons to other bored kids stuck at home. You can also put on a virtual concert to entertain your family, friends, and other people stuck in isolation and needing a break from Netflix.
  • Donate your skills. Are you artistic? Can you build a website? Edit videos? Write? There are many organizations and charities that could use your help to get their message out. Reach out to them and let them know what you can offer or post on Facebook community groups.

And here are some additional resources:

Are you a Cheshire teen who needs community service credits for school?  Send us descriptions, screenshots, or pics of whatever virtual volunteering you’ve done, and the amount of time you spent doing it, and we’ll award you community service hours for your service. Send it to kgile@cheshirelibrary.org – and thanks for making a difference!

Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with Knowledge and Service

January 19, 2015 is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. In 1994 Congress designated MLK day as a day of service. The MLK Day of Service is the only federal holiday observed as a national day of service. It calls for Americans to work together in order to provide solutions to our most pressing national problems. To learn more about the day check out the official website here.

The titles below include children’s books about Dr. King, fiction and nonfiction books about ordinary people who stand up for what’s right, and stories about helping others and giving back. Then there is a list of books about volunteering, to help choose what avenues we each might want to take in volunteering or service. No matter the day, helping out in the community is rewarding for the volunteer and those it helps. So even if you cannot participate on the designated day, maybe a book can help in finding something you can be passionate about or enjoy while serving the community.

People Who Made a Difference:

1. Child of the Civil Rights Movement by  Paula Young Shelton. A daughter of civil rights activist Andrew Young describes her experiences of growing up in the Deep South at the height of the movement, sharing her witness to the efforts of her father, family friend Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of others who participated in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

 

2. March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World by Christine King Farris.Having led thousands in a march for civil rights to the foot of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. made the most of the historical moment by giving a speech that would forever inspire people to continue to fight for change in the years ahead.

3. Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. Provides the first-hand factual account of the six-year-old student who made history by having been one of the first black children to attend an all-white, segregated school in the 1960s.

4.Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney. A picture book celebration of the
50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing Civil Rights Movement.

More books on civil rights and how individuals affect change include:The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles,  I Am Rosa Parks by Rosa Parks, Heroes for Civil Rightsby David A. Adler, Ida B. Wells: Mother of the Civil Rights Movement by Dennis Brindell Fradin and Judith Bloom Fradin, Freedom Riders: John Lewis and Jim Zwerg on the Front Lines of the Civil Rights Movementby Ann Bausum, My Country, ’tis of Thee: How One Song Reveals the History of Civil Rights by Claire Rudolf Murphy, Miles to Go for Freedom: Segregation and Civil Rights in the Jim Crow Yearsby Linda Barrett, The Girl From the Tar Paper School: Barbara Rose Johns and the Advent of the Civil Rights Movement by Teri Kanefield, and Free at Last?: The Civil Rights Movement and the People Who Made Itby Fred Powledge. 

Inspiration to Serve:

1. 50 Ways to Save our Children: Small, Medium & Big Ways You Can Change a Child’s Lifeby Cheryl Saban.Describes how to make a difference in a child’s life, including collecting toys for homeless shelters, donating books to schools and libraries, volunteer work, charitable donations, and starting a scholarship fund.

2. Teens With The Courage to Give: Young People who Triumphed over Tragedy and Volunteered to Make a Difference by Jackie Waldman. Thirty young people tell their stories of overcoming hardship to become volunteers in this inspiring look at a national trend among teenagers.

3. Our Day to End Poverty: 24 Ways You Can Make a Difference by Shannon Daley-Harris and Jeffrey Keenan, with Karen Speerstra.Imagine ending poverty at home and around the globe in our own lifetimes. Imagine your actions combining with others; actions to make poverty history. With originality and imagination, this book invites us to look at our very ordinary days, from waking up in the morning to going to bed in the evening, and to begin to think about poverty in new and creative ways. “Our Day to End Poverty” is organized into 24 “hour/chapter” segments.  Each chapter connects with your day, from breakfast to bedtime, relating these steps to ending poverty to our daily routines. Some times a problem gets to be so big, we feel there is nothing we can do about it. “Our Day to End Poverty” reminds us that if we all do just a little, a lot can get done.

  4. Giving: How Each of us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton. Compiling anecdotes about the diverse charitable efforts of the famous and non-so-famous, the former president looks at the positive influence of such work in every corner of the world and examines the profound benefits of working for the good of others for all humankind.
Looking for more inspiration? Try checking out The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun, Give a Little: How Your Small Donations Can Transform Our World by Wendy Smith, Immersion Travel USA: The Best and Most Meaningful Volunteering, Living, and Learning Excursions by Sheryl Kayne, Green Volunteers: The World Guide to Voluntary Work in Nature Conservation edited by Fabio Asuneda, Volunteering: The Ultimate Teen Guide by Kathlyn Gay, In a Heartbeat: Sharing the Power of Cheerful Giving by Leigh Anne and Sean Tuohy with Sally Jenkins, The Busy Family’s Guide to Volunteering: Do Good, Have Fun, Make a Difference as a Family! by Jenny Friedman, Volunteer Vacations: Short-term Adventures that will Benefit You and Others by Bill McMillon, Doug Cutchins, and Anne Geissinger, or Volunteering: A How-to Guide by Audrey Borus.