First published on Cosmopolitan UK on November 11, 2016
With the political turmoil of 2016, it’s easy to feel powerless; but the best way to fight fear is with love and hope. If work or study commitments take up most of your time it’s still possible to make a positive difference through volunteering.
Here are some of the easiest ways to help make the world a better place even when you’re busy:
1. Fight back against harassment
If you’ve experienced harassment on the streets or in a public space (and let’s face it, most of us have, sadly) empower yourself by helping the Hollaback campaign. Share your story with the site to add to their database of 8,000, and join a supportive online community. There are also IRL groups around the UK – and you could always start your own if there’s nothing near you.
2. Get crafty for a good cause
Not everyone is as lucky as us when it comes to access to sanitary items for that time of the month. Help girls around the world have a dignified period via Days For Girls by helping to make hygiene packs with washcloths, absorbent pads and a drawstring bag to keep it all together. Crafting instructions are on the website.
3. Or turn your craft projects into political activism
The Craftivist Collective aims to change the world ‘one stitch at a time’, and has a whole host of project ideas and inspiration to share on its website and Facebook page including mini banners, solidarity bunting and a ‘stitchable’ Malala!
4. Make a difference without setting foot outside
You can do this by ‘micro-volunteering’ for Help From Home. This website is packed with ideas for small, quick actions that can really make a difference to causes ranging from homelessness to animal rights – and everything in between. Causes are given a ‘pyjama rating’ to help you find those that can be undertaken in bed. Just think how smug you’ll feel after helping a charity before breakfast.
5. Live in London?
Download the Team London app for free to be instantly matched with flexible volunteer work. ‘Speed volunteering’ makes it easy for busy Londoners to help, just by offering a few hours even at short notice or on a one-off basis. There are all sorts of roles on offer, from spending time with lonely people to promoting arts charities.
6. Become a friend to an old person
Commit just one hour a week as a befriender for Age UK and you could make a wonderful friendship. You can either visit a local elderly person, or make a weekly phone call to check in with someone who is lonely. They carefully match you up to someone you’re likely to get on well with, plus you can be specific about how far you’re willing to travel and which timeslot you have available.
7. Embrace your love of animals
Dog lovers, rejoice! Lots of local shelters as well as those run by the Blue Cross, Dogs Trust and The Cinnamon Trust are looking for volunteer dog walkers. You’ll make furry friends and get fit – what’s not to like?
8. Volunteer online
If you excelled at GCSE maths and English, have overcome bullying or have experience in battling depression, you might like to offer your words of wisdom as an e-mentor. The Mentor Hive allows you to dedicate as much or as little of your time as you’d like to mentoring those less fortunate via Skype. There are various subjects they’d like covered, so check them out to see if you’d be a good fit.
And finally… a truly weird one for those inspired by Planet Earth II
Chimpandsee is a website that needs your help to identify chimps and other animals in photos and short videos from across Africa. There are nearly 7,000 hours of footage broken down into tiny clips. Just look at the photos, click if you see any animals and use the field guide to report your findings. The idea is to gain an understanding of chimp behaviour, but any sightings are important. Warning – it’s strangely addictive!