April is a special month for advocacy. In America alone, there are a number of national observances scheduled for April, with some being Mathematics Awareness Month, Autism Awareness Month, Celebrate Diversity Month, the Month of the Military Child, and National Health Month. But one of the most widely celebrated is National Volunteer Month, which in turn began as an offshoot of National Volunteer Week.
In 1974, almost fifty years ago, President Richard Nixon passed an executive order declaring the second week of April as a special tribute to volunteering. President George H. W. Bush expanded the celebration’s coverage to one month in 1991, and also launched a special volunteering campaign called the 1000 Points of Light. Since the inception of the observance, the eponymous Points of Light volunteer network has recorded up to 20 million hours of volunteer service a year and 5 million volunteers of all ages engaged in a cause of their choosing.
Do you want to join in this year’s volunteering festivities, but don’t know where to begin? Here’s a short list of starting points for fun, focused, and meaningful volunteering experiences this second week of April.
- Scour volunteering opportunities that align with your talents and interests. National Volunteer Week is all about freedom of opportunity, and as such, you might be overwhelmed by all the volunteering prospects available to you. Take a breath and remind yourself that it’s okay to start from a familiar place. Doing so can be the best choice in some cases, as some organizations may be looking for volunteers with your skill set. If you’re good at photography, bring your camera to an event and offer to document; if you love art, you can be a teacher for a day at an art class for less fortunate children. This is your chance to share the things you’re passionate about with a wider community.
- Wear your support. If the sector you’re interested in is selling or distributing wearable merchandise, then sport their colors during National Volunteer Week. Wear an embossed wristband, cap, shirt, lapel pin, lanyard, or hoodie with a messaging on it. This way, you can raise awareness about the cause to large crowds without needing to say a word about it.
- Attend local events, or volunteer yourself to a local organization. No one would benefit more from your efforts than the people in your local community. You can be a warm body for any charity fundraisers happening in the second week of April, be they in the form of a music concert, a film screening, talent show, or charity ball. Better yet, get in contact with your local orphanage, soup kitchen, home for the elderly, fire department, or youth center.
- Refer friends. National Volunteer Week is the best time to believe in the “ripple effect,” or what happens when the good work of one person is replicated by others. If you can help it, don’t go alone to a volunteering opportunity. Bring someone from among your family and friends, and double the effort in getting the cause to succeed.
- Give in kind to an organization that needs it. One simple but creative activity you and your family members can engage in is a drive for goods. Partner with an organization and launch a collection scheme for cash, food, medicine, clothes, toys, and other items. Drives like these can be done for the benefit of underfunded educational institutions, hospitals, or relief centers for victims of natural disaster.
- Lobby for causes you believe in. Lobbying is an important form of volunteer service, as you can join both your national and local representatives in forwarding causes for the environment, public safety, gender equality, and the like. Join a rally, forum, or stakeholder’s meeting; ask your representative’s office how you can help them push the cause further in the legislative agenda.
Your volunteering activities don’t have to stop at this week, though. National Volunteer Week should light a fire in all would-be change-makers and encourage them to step up all year long. Here’s to the positive change we can expect this April—and the time, talent, and treasure this generation of volunteers will bring!