We're always talking about giving back to our community. It's important. But sometimes it's hard to figure out where to start.
Volunteering and helping others isn't just good for the people around you, it's good for you, too. However, deciding what you want to do to help make an impact is often the trickiest part. Perhaps you're wondering whether or not the skills you already have can translate into actions that will elevate the lives of those in your neighborhood?
The answer is: Yes. There are endless ways to be an arbiter of change no matter where you live. Below you'll find some great places to start.
Build relationships with young people to help them gain the tools and skills they need to reach their full potential through programs like Thread.
The relationships a child develops early on play a crucial role in their educational and future life successes. Few organizations know that better than Thread in Baltimore Maryland, which has seen first-hand how positive bonds with adults has turned disadvantaged children's lives around.
The basis of their program is simple — as they note on their website: "Thread engages underperforming high school students confronting significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. We foster students' academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient, and responsible citizens."
Their methodology seems to be working. Out of all the kids who've been part of Thread for 6 years, 85% have graduated high school, and 83% have completed a two or four year degree or certificate program.
But it's about more than helping students. Thread fervently believes everyone who forms relationships through the program benefits, because we could all use more ties to a community.
Becoming a volunteer is easy — as long as you can connect with a student once a week, you're more than welcome.
Leverage your unique knowledge and skills to help others learn, like Oliver Ballou.
Olivier Ballou is a graphic designer in Washington, D.C.. Through Stand Together's Needs and Offers Marketplace, a volunteer platform that connects people to organizations that can benefit from their skills, he created two infographics for The Nevada Youth Empowerment Project. It's a community-based organization that helps "homeless, aged-out, unprepared, and parentless youths" gain the skills necessary for a limitless future. The program helps youth finish high school, enter college, find jobs, obtain housing, and maintain employment all while building the interpersonal relationships they need to create a strong support network that can offer help if they need it.
For the first project, Monica DuPea, Executive Director at NYEP, was looking for an infographic that could “highlight our breadth of accomplishments and experiences during that time that we can hand out to community members and add to our website for a quick reference for newcomers," She hoped it would "help increase donors and raise awareness about the organization."
The second was a bit more specific. “Each year, NYEP organizes the Washoe County Homeless Youth Count," explained DuPea. "The data collected at these counts is used by our agency and others to tell a story about a single point in time with regards to the Homeless Youth situation. When it comes to data about youth want to be sure that the information is easy to understand and is visually exciting."
Each infographic is estimated to have saved MYEP $4,212 — so Ballou ended up saving them a combined total of over $8,400.
If you're interested in helping youth reach their potential, gain the education they need to live their best life, and fight poverty, NYEP is a great organization to give your time and money to.
Look for ways to reduced barriers in your community through apps like Be My Eyes and programs like The Path Project.
Jennifer Bristol struggled for a long time about how to give back. Not only has she relocated many times in her life — attaching her to "many geographic communities" — but she's also an introvert. Being around others for too long drained her of energy. So while she's always been passionate about helping others, she sometimes found it hard to do.
"I give back to my global community through an app called Be My Eyes," Jennifer writes. "This app connects sighted people with blind people who need assistance with pretty much anything having to do with sight." She's helped people choose items of clothing, read the directions to a recipe, and select the movie they might want to see that night. While they might sound like small things, the help has made a make huge differences to blind people all over the world.
"I find it really satisfying to do something for someone else that I do on a daily basis and take for granted," Jennifer adds. "It's grounding and a great reminder to be grateful for all I have. I also love that it gives the recipients a sense of independence. Instead of one pair of eyes, they have tens of thousands at their disposal."
While the barriers Jennifer helps blind people navigate are often physical, there are other barriers, like a lack of access to education, that are similarly limiting. That's where organizations like The Path Project come in.
The Hollandsworths, who started The Path Project, saw a gap in the educational outcomes of young kids in their neighborhood. Not only were the families that lived there fighting poverty, but language barriers prevented their children from succeeding in school. So they started a volunteer homework helping program that took off in a big way.
The Path Project's success speaks for itself. 95% of its students attend school regularly, 87% have passing grades in reading and math, and 92% have good behavior reports in school.
If you live in Georgia, you can volunteer as a tutor, but there are opportunities to give a hand to kids all over the country through Stand Together's Catalysts — organizations with similar social good goals.
Whether you mentor kids, offer your skills to those in need, or use your eyes to help others see, you're helping others get where they want to go. That's making the world a better place.
Thread, NYEP and The Path Project are able to offer that support to a large community thanks to their partnership with Stand Together, an organization that's helping break the cycle of poverty by supporting the country's most innovative social entrepreneurs.
Stand Together's support allows these organizations to scale their efforts in existing communities and other places that need it.
Want more ideas for how you can help out your community, or the global community? Check out their site to learn about many other organizations that are making a difference and get involved!
To find out which organizations supports your values, take this quiz here and let Stand Together do the searching for you.