Four Little Words To Help You Plan a Summer to Remember
by Grace Kennedy
Planning your best summer of service ever is a great way to beat the winter blues, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s keep it simple by starting with four little words that you’ve probably heard before: Do what you love.
There are service opportunities for young people in just about every category you could imagine.
Young at Heart
If you have always loved playing with kids, there are plenty of organizations just waiting for volunteers like you. Check your library for reading partner programs, or look in your community for summer camps or programs where you can help out.
Greatnonprofits lists many programs for children, like the top-rated A Place Called Home Based in Los Angeles, APCH provides arts, education, and wellness programs to children. “They offer volunteers great opportunities and expose them to experiences that help with future career paths,” says Susan, a volunteer.
If you’re passionate about helping children dealing with illness or disability, there are many organizations to choose from. No Limits for Deaf Children has a national theatrical and educational program to help deaf children learn to speak confidently, achieve, dream and inspire. Matthew, a volunteer, says, “I worked with No Limits for three weeks and it was probably one of the most meaningful experiences in my life.”
Lions, Tigers, Bears…and Horses
If you have always loved playing with kids, there are plenty of organizations just waiting for volunteers like you. If an animal shelter or sanctuary is your happy place, you will have no trouble making a difference this summer. Places like The Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado rely on kind-hearted volunteers to do everything from cleanup to feeding. This sanctuary provides a life-long home for captive great cats, bears, wolves and other large animals that have been abandoned, exploited and illegally kept. “Every time I go, I learn something new and see more amazing animals now living a great life,” says Barbara, a volunteer.
If you love horses, see if your town has a horse rescue organization. RVR Horse Rescue in Florida is dedicated to fully rehabilitating and finding loving forever homes for their horses, and they accept volunteers as young as ten. Says volunteer Rina, “I found my purpose at RVR!”
The Whole Wide World
Are you a traveler at heart? Many top-rated nonprofits are working to help people across the globe, and they would love to have you on board. Compassion Services International provides disaster relief, humanitarian aid and medical missions around the world. As one volunteer said: “You won’t be disappointed. To this day Compassion Services remains the one time I really felt I made a difference.” (Compassion Services volunteers must be 18 or older.)
Soccer Without Borders holds a summer camp in Nicaragua where participants age 18 and older can play and coach soccer while learning about the local and national culture. Brad, who participated in the camp, said: “If you are considering volunteering/working with Soccer Without Borders, I can promise you that your experience will leave your heart full.”
The Great Outdoors
Nature lovers have lots of fresh air options for making a difference. Many communities have arboretums or nature centers that rely on volunteers for their programs and upkeep.
The Marine Science Institute conducts education programs on and around the San Francisco Bay and Coast. Their site lists all kinds of volunteer opportunities for people age 12 and up.
“I really enjoyed seeing kids of all ages have a great time while learning all about our oceans, bay, and environment,” says a volunteer named Lucille, in her GreatNonprofits review.
The Nature Conservancy can connect you to a variety of volunteer projects in your community, from restoration projects to river trail maintenance. “I have never seen an organization do more to preserve nature and biodiversity on our planet,” says one volunteer.
Put Some Heart in Your Art
Dreaming of an artistic summer? Many theater and art programs offer summer programs, and they often need volunteer help. Art with a Heart provides hands-on visual art experiences to educate and inspire underserved children. Volunteer Erica says, “The teachers and other volunteers really cared about their work and students, and it was a wonderful environment to be in.”
Do you have a favorite theater or venue in your town? Ask if they need volunteers for the summer. It’s a great way to make a difference and make connections at the same time. American Blues Theater is an award-winning arts organization in Chicago that offers student internships. A volunteer says, “This company is a good fit for people who care about art and the larger well-being of their community and the world.”
Do what you love. Four simple words. One amazing summer. We can’t wait to read about your life-changing experiences on GreatNonprofits!