Volunteering has a whole host of benefits, from feeling like you’re making a positive change to meeting inspiring people and staying productive. At Rest Less, we know how important it is to feel as though you’re giving back to the community, and as our volunteering guide shows, there’s a role out there for everyone – whatever your skills, passions or interests. But due to the current coronavirus pandemic, there may be changes to some of the ways that we would normally be able to volunteer.
With social distancing in place, volunteering with or alongside other people in hands-on roles is often no longer viable. But for many of us, the desire to give something back to the community when it needs it the most has never been greater – and luckily, there are still ways to do this. Today there are multiple ways you can make a difference from the comfort and safety of your own home. Here are some of the best ways you can help others – all you need is a WiFi connection.
Virtual volunteering roles
Translators Without Borders (TWB)
If you have a passion for languages, then why not put your skills to good use by volunteering for Translators Without Borders (TWB)? This non-profit organisation has a powerful mission: to end the language gaps that obstruct important humanitarian and international development efforts around the world. TWB volunteers provide aid in times of crises by translating and interpreting, and providing people with vital knowledge in their own language.
So how can you help? If you’re fluent in at least one language (other than English) there will always be translating work you can help with from home – everything from medical texts to translating for a crisis response. If you want to use your language skills to help people in need, you can get started by completing the translator application form.
If you’re not fluent in another language but would still like to help TWB, then there’s good news. TWB also need people to help run the organisation in a variety of other volunteer roles – from project managing and graphic design, through to fundraising. Available roles change depending on the current climate, but you can check the website to see what volunteer projects TWB are currently looking for help with.
Knowing that you’re still able to help people facing a crisis from the comfort of your own sofa can be surreal, but is enormously rewarding. To hear firsthand what it’s like to volunteer for such a meaningful organisation, and to see whether this role might be for you, have a read of some current volunteers’ stories on the TWB blog.
Be My Eyes app
The Be My Eyes app has created a wonderful way for small acts of kindness to have a resounding, global impact. This free mobile app connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers to achieve one simple but powerful goal: to make life easier for people who are partially sighted. Since the app’s launch in 2015, more than 2,000,000 volunteers have signed up – and with over 180 languages in use, Be My Eyes is one of the largest micro-volunteering platforms in the world.
As a volunteer, all you have to do is download the app, sign on when you’re available to help, and wait for a live video call to come through when a user requires assistance. This could be anything from checking the expiry dates on food items to distinguishing colours or navigating surroundings. Through the live call, you’ll chat directly with the user who needs help, advising them where to point their camera so you can assist them.
To find out more about using Be My Eyes, and read personal stories from both users and volunteers, check out the Community Stories page on the website.
Would you like to be there for others during a crisis? If so, consider volunteering for Shout – the UK’s first 24/7 text service that offers people a place to turn if they are struggling to cope and are in need of some immediate help. You could save lives and help people find hope again.
Shout is powered by an amazing team of volunteers, whose generosity keeps the service running around the clock. When someone texts Shout, they will be put in touch with a Crisis volunteer who will respond to them via text, using trained techniques. Their aim is to help individuals be able to think more clearly and consider which steps they could take to start feeling better.
If you want to get involved with Shout, then you’ll need to be resilient and mentally strong to be able to give others the best possible help. You’ll also need be able to commit to 25 hours of online training, followed by at least 200 hours of volunteering. This works out at about 2-4 hours volunteering each week.
To find out more about how you can start changing lives, you can visit the Shout website, here.
If you’re looking for a low commitment volunteering opportunity, where your contribution will make a big difference – then you could get involved with Woodland Trust. The charity are appealing for people to help them protect nature’s ancient trees by finding and recording them.
You can either do this as you come across them by chance – perhaps when out walking or running. Or, some people decide to make it a hobby, where they go out and actively hunt for ancient trees in their local area. Woodland Trust also offer top tips on how to spot them!
Getting started is easy. When you come across an ancient tree, all you have to do is add it to the Woodland Trust’s Ancient Tree Inventory, which you can find here. Once you’ve done this, the trust will send out an expert to investigate and to ensure that each tree gets the protection that it needs.
Not many people can say that they’re spending their free time helping to expose human rights violations – but if you become an Amnesty Decoders volunteer, you’ll be doing just that. Operated by Amnesty International, this network of online volunteers help conduct research into human rights violations all around the world. Exposing human rights violations can be an extremely long and arduous process – not least because of the amount of material and evidence researchers have to filter through. By examining photos, documents and data yourself, you’ll be helping important projects to advance.
Previously, Amnesty Decoders volunteers have used their devices to verify the location of devastating oil spills in Nigeria and hold the oil companies accountable; flag the abuse sent via social media to female politicians in India during the 2019 General Elections; find evidence of drone strikes in Syria during the US-led Coalition strike campaign in 2017; and identify the most remote and vulnerable villages in Darfur.
If this all sounds like crucial, life-changing work, it is. Knowing you’re helping individuals and communities who need it most is incredibly rewarding – and being able to make such a difference to people from the security of your own home is a privilege. You can register to join the Amnesty Decoders volunteer team here.
The Granny Cloud
If you’ve ever worked with children – or simply enjoy spending time with them – you might want to consider joining the Granny Cloud, an independent team of volunteers who interact with children online. Don’t be put off by the name! You don’t have to be a grandmother to join this network; current ‘Grannies’ are both male and female, and range in age from 24 to 78. The kind, encouraging nature of this style of interaction was described as a “grandmother approach”, and after it was used by the media, the term “Granny” stuck.
So what do these Grannies do? Volunteers Skype into remote locations to chat with, listen to and encourage children, to help create an environment where they can thrive. The Granny Cloud began its journey in India, helping inspire and motivate children with limited educational resources. Since then, volunteers have also bonded with children in Colombia, Cambodia, Mexico, Greenland and Jamaica. Over Skype calls, Grannies read and tell stories, ask questions, solve puzzles, and get stuck into arts and crafts.
To make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children, all you have to do is commit a single hour per week to engage with these kids. You’ll be helping them grow in confidence, develop their social skills, improve their literacy, foster independent thinking, and get a glimpse into a world that’s starkly different from their own. Find out what it’s like to be a Granny here – and if you want to become one yourself, you can register here.
If you’re interested in geography or cartography, the British Red Cross’s Missing Maps might be the ideal volunteer programme for you. Every year, disasters across the world kill approximately 100,000 people, and affect or displace a further 200 million. A big problem is that many of the places hit by these disasters are so remote or undeveloped they’re essentially missing from maps. Without key details about these locations, first responders are unavailable to provide the help that’s needed, or make informed decisions about relief efforts.
Missing Maps aims to rectify this problem. This is an open, collaborative project where volunteers map the most vulnerable places in the world to further the efforts of humanitarian organisations. Using the OpenStreetMap repository, you’ll add buildings, roads and other details to maps, providing key information that will help these local communities develop. Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like this before! It’s easier than you think, and the Missing Maps website provides tutorial videos.
To join the Missing Maps team, create an account on OpenStreetMap and practice your mapping skills.
United Nations Volunteers (UNV)
If you’d love to contribute to peace and sustainable human development across the world, then why not consider becoming a United Nations Volunteer? The UNV programme is the United Nations’ online volunteering platform: with 12,000 volunteers per year – 60% from developed countries – this is an opportunity to do truly meaningful work. With a 94% satisfaction rate, you can rest assured that this volunteering programme is one of most established and successful around.
Online volunteering for the UNV is fast, easy and effective. Wherever you are in the world, whatever device you use, you’ll be able to join forces with charitable organisations working towards sustainable development, and help make a tangible change to the lives of others. One of the best things about the UNV programme is its versatility, and you’ll easily be able to find a volunteering role that fits your skills, requirements and interest. Currently, the volunteering sectors are:
- Writing and editing
- Teaching and training
- Art and design
- Technology development
- Outreach and advocacy
- Project development and management
- Community organizing
- Leadership & strategy
- Event organization
- Healthcare services
All you have to do is scroll through the list of volunteering opportunities and see which ones are suited to you. There are short-term roles and long-term roles; there are roles that require as little as one hour a week and as much as 20+. Whatever volunteering role you’re looking for, you’re sure to find something here. If you’re interested in becoming a UNV, sign up here.
If you’re a bird watching enthusiast – or an ardent conservationist – you can combine your hobby with helping to protect the planet. eBird is the world’s largest “biodiversity-related citizen science project”, and is a great way to help inform global bird research, assist with conservation decisions, and contribute to peer-reviewed papers – all while sitting in your back garden…or even while looking out the window.
Managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird volunteers log more than 100 million bird sightings every year. All you have to do is log the birds you’ve seen on any outing; this could be during your daily exercise, or from your own garden. By joining this worldwide network of birdwatchers and tracking your sightings on the eBird site, you’re helping advance new analytical approaches to science, conservation and education.
You’re not just enjoying a peaceful hobby – you’re actively contributing to critical data that can make a huge difference to wildlife and sustainability. Find out more about how you can contribute to eBird here.