Want to make a difference and give back? Here’s the secret: SEVA.
This Sanksrit word is all about selflessness—meaning giving your talent, your energy and your time without expecting anything in return. SEVA is a popular concept in yoga traditions and many Indian religions, like Sikhism.
If one of your goals is to put in more volunteer hours for causes you care about, we’ve got you covered—whether you’re an adventurous soul, fashionista, green gal or jock. Get some ideas for how to start living SEVA-style:
For adventurous souls: If you build it, they will come! Check out Habitat for Humanity, a Christian organization providing homes for needy families around the world. They’ve got lots of opps for young people to get involved, including Global Village trips where team members work with their host communities to build affordable housing in poverty-stricken areas. To participate in a Global Village trip, volunteers must be 16 and up (younger kids need a parent to come along).
Another option: Consider taking a volunteer vacay—by spending a week or more in Africa or Asia or South America doing things like building schools, working at an orphanage, supporting HIV education or providing elder care, you’ll not only get great experience, but you’ll get some serious and life-changing perspective by opening up the window to your world. See our article for ideas about how to start.
For animal lovers: The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has lots of ideas for helping our furry friends. Love fundraising? Join the ASPCA Ambassadors to help raise critical funds for critters in need. On the ASPCA website, you can also find great tips on ways to help your local shelter—from helping socialize new kittens to taking photos of adoptable pets to post online. Another option: Check out National Geographic’s citizen science projects for ideas for helping birds, butterflies and more!
For fashionistas: With prom season just around the corner, this would be a fab time to volunteer for an organization like DonateMyDress, “the first national campaign designed to encourage girls around the country to donate their prom and special occasion dresses to those who cannot afford them for prom, sweet 16, quinceañera or formals,” according to the organization’s website. If there’s not already a drive in your community, just start your own with these six easy steps!
For green thinkers: Greenpeace is looking for dedicated volunteers aged 14 and up to work on campaigns—which in the past have included lobbying President Obama to save the whales, forcing corporations to stop destroying the rainforest and protecting campuses and neighborhoods from dangerous coal and nuclear power plants. When you apply to volunteer, make sure to check the box for the Student Network Listserv to find out about special opportunities for young people going to school. Another option: The World Wildlife Federation has amazing opportunities for 20-27 year olds to travel to exotic locations around the world—and conserve crucial resources along the way!
For jocks: Girls on the Run is designed to build confidence in young girls through running and through life-changing lessons. You can learn more about this fabulous organization here and get ideas for volunteering (including running with the girls during their 5k at the culmination of the 12-week program). It’s a majorly important moment for these girls, so be there to cheer them on! Another option: College athletes can check out Coaching Corps to learn about opportunities to inspire a new generation of jocks! Read our profile with coach Sahar Osmani to learn more about this cool program.
Feeling overwhelmed by the possibilities? Check out our article Where to Volunteer? 5 Factors to Consider for help narrowing down your options. Also, Volunteermatch can help you find volunteering opportunities in your own community!