By Joanna Mechlinksi
Many of us enjoy giving back to the world around us. Countless studies have shown there are numerous benefits, from increased self-worth to making new friendships, for those who volunteer.
But what about those of us who live with chronic illness or disability? Many are unable to hold regular jobs due to pain and other factors, let alone outside commitments.
Luckily, there are lots of opportunities out there which can work around individual needs.
- Share your talent. Are you a strong writer? Many nonprofits desperately need help with media releases, writing grants, even thank-you letters to donors. Is web design more your thing? Maybe you have a terrific telephone voice and great people skills. If you’re good at knitting or crocheting, you can make blankets for children in foster care or shelters, caps for cancer patients and more. Whatever your special skill, chances are there’s an organization out there that would love to have it. And thanks to today’s technology, it’s possible to do it all from home. If you have trouble connecting with the right group, try using a site like VolunteerMatch.org or CreateTheGood.org
- Start a collection of items to donate. Many organizations rely upon donations to keep operating. These aren’t just monetary, but also actual items. For example, animal shelters always need kibble, gently used towels and blankets; homeless shelters always need toiletries and things like socks and underwear, which most people don’t think of. There are groups such as the Lions Club who collect usable eyeglasses for those who can’t afford them. Many organizations, such as homeless shelters and senior centers, are also thrilled to receive used books. Even if you’re housebound, you can still coordinate a drive via phone and social media, and have someone else drive the items over when you’re through collecting.
- Brighten someone’s day with mail. In this world of social media, a handwritten card or letter sent via the postal service is a rarity. Everyone enjoys a bit of special attention, but especially soldiers stationed overseas, senior citizens without any family or friends, and people hospitalized for long stretches.
- Contact legislature. There are many important issues in society which desperately need to be backed by new or adapted laws. For example, many communities are beginning to institute animal abuse registries, which track offenders. There has been a push for a national registry, but nothing definite has yet happened. Find a cause you believe in and reach out to lawmakers, urging them to take action.
- Make the most of your online time. There are a wide variety of ways you can easily make a difference. You can visit click-to-give sites such as GreaterGood.com or fun quiz games like FreeRice.org, or donate a portion of your online purchases to the charity of your choice via sites like AmazonSmile or iGift.com. You can even help by using a search engine that donates to charity, such as GoodSearch.com or EveryClick.com. Even if you aren’t able to spend a lot of time on the internet, it all adds up.
Of course, these ideas are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Once you start thinking, the possibilities are truly endless. We’re all capable of making a difference in the world, regardless of our circumstances or obstacles.
Joanna Mechlinski is a former newspaper reporter who now works in education. She is a chronic pain sufferer who lives in Connecticut and is a frequent contributor to the National Pain Report.