April is Global Volunteer Month, a time to recognize the power of volunteers to tackle society’s greatest challenges.
Launched last year by Points of Light, the world’s largest nonprofit dedicated to accelerating people-powered change, Global Volunteer Month serves to activate volunteers and support the most vulnerable populations. And over the past year, volunteers have joined the ranks of frontline workers and first responders to fight against COVID-19, support the vaccination roll-out, address systemic racism and ensure equity and opportunity for all.
“We launched Global Volunteer Month last year during a time of great uncertainty that made it even more important for us to find ways to unite communities and connect people despite distance,” says Natalye Paquin, president and CEO of Points of Light.
A recent survey demonstrates that despite all the obstacles, 2020 marked one of the most civically-engaged years in history. Fifty-two percent of Americans surveyed volunteered for the first time during the pandemic. However, seven out of 10 respondents reported that while the effects of COVID-19 on their community made them more eager to volunteer, they’ve hesitated due to safety concerns.
To volunteer safely during Global Volunteer Month and beyond, consider these ideas and tips from Points of Light:
1. Offer vaccination assistance. Scheduling vaccinations can be tricky, particularly for those who aren’t web-savvy or don’t speak English as a first language. Whether you work with individuals in your extended network or volunteer with organizations helping to centralize vaccination information, there are many ways to be involved from home. On-site opportunities to help people navigate their vaccination appointment also exist, and your assistance may be especially needed if you’re multilingual. Vaccination distribution centers follow all CDC social distancing guidelines to ensure the health and safety of volunteers.
2. Give rides to medical appointments. Seniors without transportation often need rides to life-sustaining medical appointments. With the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine, this need has increased. Connect with a local organization near you that follows protocols to keep drivers and the elderly safe.
3. Support food distribution. The concurrent medical and economic crises have made grocery shopping dangerous for some, and unaffordable for others. Drive-through food distribution centers and contactless drop-off services are essential social protection programs you can support. As more people get vaccinated, an increasing number of in-person volunteer opportunities will likely open up and be needed in food banks.
4. Comfort the grieving. Those who are grieving often need critical emotional support. While some organizations are searching for licensed counselors to make comfort calls, others are looking for anyone with a big heart and a listening ear.
5. Maintain public spaces. As warm weather arrives, communities are looking for volunteers to beautify and improve the local environment of public parks and spaces.
6. Help students succeed. Even in normal years, many families need assistance with school supplies and homework help, and the pandemic has only exacerbated these issues. Help students succeed by providing virtual tutoring through a homework helpline or by contributing to or hosting a donation drive for school supplies.
7. Support health initiatives. After facing long periods of isolation, there is a growing demand to help build strong communities by supporting local fitness and nutrition programs. Virtual and in-person opportunities abound for people of all professional backgrounds and skillsets, ranging from coaching youth runners to widening access to nutrition information in low-income neighborhoods.
8. Show gratitude. Recognize and thank first responders, volunteers and frontline workers. Many say that handwritten letters are the most cherished items received in care packages. This is also a great way to get kids involved!
9. Make connections. During the pandemic, homebound people have been more isolated than ever. Organizations are looking for volunteers to make regular phone calls to provide companionship and determine if individuals are in need of additional assistance.
10. Just volunteer! Visit Points of Light at pointsoflight.org/volunteer to find a local affiliate in your area, search the world’s largest digital hub for volunteering and community engagement opportunities, as well as to find tips and best practices for safely volunteering from home or in communities. And be sure to inspire others to uplift their communities by sharing your experiences using #GlobalVolunteerMonth on social media.
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