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National Volunteer Month: How to volunteer in 2021

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During World War II, Canada led the way and established a National Volunteer Week. At the time, this week was designed to recognize women’s contributions to the war effort on the home front. About 30 years later in 1974, the United States also adopted a National Volunteer Week. Today, the entire month of April invites all of us to consider how we can make a difference in our communities.

In 2021, volunteering might look a bit different than years past. We’ve rounded up a few ways you can make a difference while staying safe.

In-person options

This year, in-person volunteer opportunities may be more limited than in years past. But our communities are more in need than ever. Depending on your skills and the needs in your local community, you may find volunteer opportunities with:

  • COVID vaccine clinics: Many cities need volunteers to help take temperatures or direct traffic flow at vaccine clinics. You may also find an organization where you can assist with appointment scheduling. Elderly community members, people experiencing homelessness or non-native English speakers may benefit from scheduling assistance.
  • Meal delivery services: Organizations like Meals on Wheels or Feeding America need volunteers to sort and pack food, assist at no-contact distribution centers or deliver meals to neighbors in need.
  • Blood donation sites: Many blood donation sites have seen a decrease in donations during the pandemic. All types of blood are in high demand, and you can schedule an appointment to donate once every 56 days.

Get creative with online volunteering

Many of us have skills that allow us to participate in virtual volunteer opportunities. For example, you may design flyers, make phone calls or organize photo files. You might consider:

  • American Red Cross: You can be a digital advocate for the Red Cross by posting on social media, creating an online fundraiser or encouraging friends to make donations.
  • Be My Eyes: This free digital app connects people who are blind or have low-vision with seeing volunteers. The app connects you through a secure video call. You may provide help with reading instructions, checking expiration dates and more.
  • Grow Movement: If you have business experience, you can work with Grow Movement to mentor and empower entrepreneurs in Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. These services help entrepreneurs build their businesses more effectively, create community jobs and reduce poverty.
  • Learn To Be: This organization provides free tutoring services to elementary, middle and high school students in underserved communities. You can volunteer from your own home by meeting with students through the virtual Learn To Be classroom.
  • Learning Ally: Volunteers may narrate literature or textbooks to improve access for those who struggle with reading. In addition to narrating, you may also help by providing descriptions of images and figures so that audiobook users receive all the book’s material.
  • Smithsonian Digital Volunteer Program: Volunteers with the Smithsonian can transcribe historical records or tag images from the comfort of their homes. Participating in this program helps to make research easier and preserves history for future generations.
  • TED Translators: Are you multilingual? You may work as a translator to add subtitles to TED Talks. Subtitling these presentations helps increase access for viewers around the world.

Why volunteer?

The beauty of volunteering is that positive impacts go both directions. Volunteering uplifts communities, empowers others and improves access to resources. On a personal note, giving back to your community has been shown to improve your mental health, boost your immune system and increase your lifespan. Find a new way to give back this month. Community service benefits everyone.