Great Places to Volunteer as a Teenager
Why Teens Volunteer
According to a 2012 research study by DoSomething.org, more than 90% of teens surveyed want the opportunity to volunteer, but not everyone who wants to volunteer actually follows through. The main driver for teens that do volunteer on a regular basis is having friends who also volunteer regularly.
Teens like volunteering with friends, family or as part of an organization like with their sports team or club. There is a camaraderie when you're part of a group working towards a common cause. It makes the work lighter, more fun, and the time passes quicker. It also instills a sense of purpose and responsibility towards the people you work with, as well as to the community you help.
For teens looking for a volunteer opportunity, begin by asking friends if they volunteer and if so, what volunteer programs they are involved with. Church groups, youth groups, sports teams and school clubs usually have some type of volunteer program component that might be a good starting point.
High schoolers can see if their school has a Kiwanis Club; this is a great organization that offers teens many service opportunities that benefit their community. Similarly Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts offer many service projects and leadership opportunities that teens can get involved in.
VolunteerMatch has a large database that is constantly updated with new volunteer opportunities; many are appropriate for teens and their families. You can narrow your search to seek out specific interest areas, like environmental causes or animal welfare.
Spread a wide net in your search; check out big organizations like Habitat for Humanity. They often host summer or spring break build opportunities for teens where you can travel and meet with other teens to help build a house.
Maybe your family would be interested in a "volunteer vacation," traveling to another part of the country or across the globe to help a community in need. Look for non-profit organizations like Global Volunteers for possible trip opportunities. Be aware that some volunteer vacations can be quite rustic and rugged, requiring family members to be in pretty good shape to contribute their labor.
Humane Societies and animal shelters in some communities allow teens to volunteer. Seek out smaller shelters as well, but make sure that they are reputable non-profit organizations that carry sufficient insurance. Even if you can't volunteer directly with the animals, you might be able to volunteer indirectly by collecting toys, blankets and other shelter supplies and donating them.
Be sure to check within your own community to see if any volunteer opportunities exist. Some places to look include hospitals, children's museums, libraries, recreation centers, and community councils.
Volunteer With a Group
How Teens Can Help
Even if you don't have time to volunteer, you can still help! Teens on social media can help spread the word about worthy volunteer opportunities and organizations. Send out a tweet to help a friend, or microblog about a worthy organization that you admire. It's hard to find out about good places to volunteer, so the more you can do to raise awareness, the more you help other teens connect with volunteer organizations.
Remember that research shows that more teens volunteer with friends, a group, or with their families, so if you are interested in being a volunteer, chances are that you will stick with it if you have a friend to go along with you. See if you can get a group together and find your cause. You'll feel good about making a difference, and your time and efforts will be greatly appreciated.