"Let me tell you a secret: volunteering could change the trajectory of your life
Wherever you are in the world - there is always a chance for you to do good. As much as we admire people who travel to distant places to volunteer abroad (check out my blogpost about that here) we sometimes forget that it is easier and cheaper to volunteer right where we are.
"It is easier and cheaper to volunteer right where we are"
More importantly: we are able to make a bigger difference!
Volunteering is all about matching your skills to the needs of an organization. The more familiar you are with the operations of an organization, the more you are going to be of help. While I, for example, am by far not an excellent rider, I did take some horse riding lessons when I was younger - an experience that proved useful when I was later volunteering as a assistant in horse-therapy lessons.
"Volunteering is all about matching your skills
to the needs of an organization"
In the sessions I would never sit on the horse myself, but my familiarity with the animals made me a useful assistant - perhaps (if I can say so) more useful than the volunteers with no previous experience with horses.
If you are thinking that you don't have any skills someone could benefit from - think again! Everyone has experiences that makes them really good at something.
"Everyone has experiences that makes them really good at something"
If you have experienced bullying yourself - you may be able to better support younger victims of bullying. Honestly, simply speaking a language (and I know you speak at least one) and being an empathetic and caring person can be extremely helpful to many institutions.
But even if you know the skills that you have - how can you find places to volunteer around you?
A sidenote: I created this website with the intention to make it as international and universally-applicable as possible. In this particular post this is very difficult, of course - but I promise I will do my best and please let me know if anything is missing.
A good place to start: Google
Search for: Lists of nonprofits + your region/city/town/country
If you have 5 seconds to spare I urge you to open another page on your browser and simply type in "nonprofits" or "NGOs" (or the equivalent in your language or country) AND the name of the city, town or region where you live. Chances are that you will find at least one organization that serves a need in your community. Get in touch with them, introduce yourself and your skills and ask whether you could be of help!
Second-best place to start: Personal contacts
Ask around at your school, university and your parents' friends - does anyone work with an organization or initiative that would lend a hand? Maybe you are not going to be successful with the first person you talk to - but people will remember that you are looking to volunteer - and most likely get back to you. The good thing about going through personal contacts is that it can give you essential background information and a sense of security. It takes much more courage to introduce yourself to an organization that you don't know (and that doesn't know you) than if a friend puts you in touch with e.g their friend's mother.
Search-engines and Websites
Apart from searching for organizations around you, there are several websites created to help people find volunteer opportunities around them. These can be long-term projects but also one-off opportunities. If you cannot commit to a weekly appointment this is a great weekend to - when you have a free weekend - to simply check whether there is an event where you could help out as a one-off thing. That way you can also get to know organizations without committing to anything and make new friends.
I actually used this website when I was doing an internship in Philadelphia earlier this year. I was eager to volunteer to connect deeper with the communities around me. Since I was in the city for only two months I couldn't commit to any regular volunteering but I ended up helping out with face-painting and helping out at marathons and other community events - always meeting interesting people and having lot's of fun.
As far as I could see VolunteerMatch operates pretty much all over the world so I strongly recommend just taking some time every week to look for interesting ways to make a difference!
And even if you don't find anything directly in your area: it also lists online volunteer opportunities!
Idealist is fairly similar to VolunteerMatch but it also list many long-term opportunities such as jobs and internships at nonprofits and social initiatives. I also found that whereas VolunteerMatch lists many opportunities for which you don't require very specific skills - idealist often searches for people who are able to complete a specific task e.g video editing, face-painting, photography, or accounting. But don't worry - it also lists many opportunities that everyone could help with so it's definitely worth checking out.
Oh yeah - and it also lists remote opportunities, if you want to get involved in something but cannot be present physically.
Do It (UK) and Create the Good (US only)
For people in the UK and US: These are two volunteer opportunity search engines like Idealist and VolunteerMatch but only in the UK and the US (as far as I could understand)
Become a scout!
Although I was never a scout I was involved in a very similar organization. The volunteers who offered their care and time to me and my peers absolutely changed the life of 10-year old me and getting involved in empowering boys and girls all over the world is one of the best ways to volunteer locally. You can either search for scout clubs in your country/region, look at this website that supposedly lists the vast majority of boys scout organizations, or check out the World Association of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides.
The Alliance Network, a nonprofit that aims to support Nonprofits/NGO's all over the world, also has a list of country-specific volunteer organizations that can help you find volunteer organizations specific to a region.