Feeling good about your lifestyle and your health is more than skin-deep. A great way to feel positive about your life is to become a volunteer for a project that is close to your heart. The wonderful thing about volunteering is that it is something everyone can do. Even the smallest amount of time makes a difference as part of a larger project.
The Benefits of Volunteering
Volunteering is the act of giving your time to a project or non-profit organization to get something done that benefits others. Conservationists, eco-warriors and those with a genuine desire to improve the planet are sure to find a worthwhile cause in their locality. Volunteering may involve building and repairing footpaths, acting as wildlife rangers, clearing weeds and invasive plants, or removing trash from local beauty spots. It may require feeding and caring for injured wildlife or rescuing and cleaning birds after an oil spill.
As a volunteer you will reap some wonderful payback for contributing your time, energy and talents to an eco-friendly project. A recent study by the London School of Economics found that those who volunteered regularly were 16% more likely to describe themselves as “very happy” compared to those who never volunteered.
Working as a team with other volunteers means you get to meet like-minded people. Like you, they are dedicated to conservation and making the world a better place. You have something interesting and worthwhile to talk about once the project is done. At the end of a day’s physical hard work there is always that sense of achievement and satisfaction that comes from a job well done.
Volunteering offers the opportunity to learn new skills and increase your knowledge through hands-on experience. As a volunteer, you earn respect from others. It gives you the chance to put something remarkable on your resume that makes you stand out from the rest. Volunteering says a great deal about who you are, your sense of social responsibility and your character.
How to Make Volunteering Fun!
Volunteering provides many benefits. It can be especially beneficial if you are new to the area and want to connect with your community. Working outdoors as part of a team is great for social morale. It also improves both your physical and mental health.
Consider recruiting others to join in. Shy people may need a little encouragement. It’s always easier to do something new if you attend with a partner or friend.
Volunteering can be a great activity for families as all generations have something to offer. Older people may have skills, tools and know-how. Youngsters have plenty of energy and agility. It’s a hands-on way to teach your children about social values and the importance of giving back to the community.
State and regional parks rely heavily on volunteers to manage the hundreds of parks and thousands of acres that come under their control. Even nature needs a hand at times. Habitat restoration covers projects such as building and placing butterfly, bat and bird nesting boxes. It may involve planting new shrubs to attract and feed wildlife. You may be involved in creating gardens to encourage rare and threatened species of butterflies.
Volunteers are needed for fence building, installing erosion controls or stabilizing shorelines. Without these necessary maintenance projects, the heritage of state and regional parks would be a great deal poorer and less valuable to local communities.
Beach Cleaning and Litter Lifts
If you live near the coast, look out for volunteering projects to help in beach cleaning and litter pick-ups. The oceans are full of flotsam and jetsam. This ends up on our beaches, especially after winter storms. Plastic bottles, bags and cans take years to disintegrate, causing problems of pollution, choking and suffocating of native wildlife.
Ocean Conservancy is one of many conservation groups concerned about our coastline. In the last 25 years, volunteers have removed 144.6 million pounds of trash from beaches during the International Coastal Cleanup projects. Consider being part of the next clean-up campaign at a beach near you.
Back in 1992 a team of 25 volunteers got together for the first Chicago River Rescue Day. They cleared mattresses, shopping carts and hundreds of bags of waste that had been dumped into the Chicago River.
Today the project continues with over 4,000 volunteers and many more background helpers and sponsors. They provide valuable environmental work along the 673-square mile watershed of the Chicago River. Activities include habitat monitoring, water quality testing, fixing gullies and maintaining trails.
The Chicago River provides a great example to local organizations who want to restore their environment. Every city has some waterway, and chances are high that there’s a project near you that is desperate for another pair of willing hands.
The National Audubon Society is one of many environmental organizations dedicated to preserving the natural habitats of birds and wildlife. Loss of habitat, water and air pollution, and the effects of pesticides and toxic chemicals used in farming constantly threaten native birds. This non-profit has local chapters throughout the USA. They need volunteers to promote educational programs about birds and their habits, assist in annual bird counts and act as wardens at their bird sanctuaries.
The National Audubon Society also promotes bird watching and creating backyard habitats to encourage bird feeding and nesting. If you are one of the estimated 63 million bird watchers in the USA, this could be just the volunteering project for you!
Now that you have discovered the benefits and diversity of volunteering we hope you have found a project that you feel passionate about and feel inspired to help. Why not make this the year you make a difference? Consider offering your time and talents by becoming a volunteer for a conservation or environmental project in your local area.