For many people, isolation has been one of the most challenging parts of the pandemic. The need for social distancing has made it more difficult to spend time with friends and loved ones.
The good news is that volunteering can help. Research has proven that volunteering can have a positive impact on our well-being. It can also help us feel less lonely and, with the right opportunity, even make friends. Here are eight volunteer opportunities that offer the chance to connect with others.
Senior citizens are particularly at risk for COVID-19 and, often, isolation. Volunteer to connect via a phone call or video chat through organizations like Covia and Dorot for some good conversation, and discover the benefits for both of you. In addition, if you know people who live alone, reach out to them. You might even set a date for a weekly or monthly phone call or video chat.
Revive the lost art of letter writing, and make a new friend, too. While some letter-writing programs are structured for simply one letter, others allow you strike up a correspondence. United Way Pen Pals are paired with an elementary school student and encouraged to write one to two letters per month. Solders’ Angels Letter Writing Team pairs you with a deployed military member to write letters. And The Letter Project pairs girls and women 13 and older with other girls and women to be pen pals.
Mentors come in many forms. Some people mentor young people, giving them positive adult role models who care about them. Programs like iCouldBe and MENTOR’s virtual mentoring portals have opportunities with young people ages 12 and under and 13+. CollegeBound’s virtual mentoring program helps high school students prepare for college.
Your professional skills offer another way to connect as you give back. Nonprofits are frequently understaffed and looking for professionals to work with their staffs and committees. So, if you have experience in graphic design, marketing, administration, accounting, or other areas, there may be a local organization that would love to have you volunteer virtually. Catchafire, Points of Light Institute, and the Taproot Foundation all match skilled professionals with nonprofits that need them. And this provides opportunities to interact with others at the organization.
People need help with all manner of issues, ranging from preparing their taxes to accessing social services. Learn new skills while helping others an AARP Foundation Tax-Aide volunteer. Know someone who may need public benefits, but doesn’t know how to qualify? AARP Benefits QuickLINK, a webpage sponsored by the AARP Foundation, has a free online tool that compares a user’s income, resources, ZIP code, and monthly expenses to the rules for 15 government programs that help cover the costs of groceries, utilities, health care, and prescriptions. Ask people you love if they need help, and explore what you can do virtually.
Create the Good hosts periodic volunteer events, such as making cards or painting rocks, which are open to the public. You can participate from your own home and interact with others. Visit Create the Good on Facebook, and search for events to find out more information. You may also ask your favorite nonprofit if they are planning virtual volunteer events, too.
If you have knowledge or a skill that you can teach, there may be other volunteer opportunities. You can test your computer knowledge for free, then help others learn the basics of getting online. Netliteracy.org offers a series of free lesson plans to help seniors learn computer, internet and email basics. Or be a tutor for children in your community.
From a contact-free food drive to a virtual social for community members to connect, you can organize your own safe, remote event. All you need is an account on a video conference service like Zoom or Google, which have free options.
There are many ways you can volunteer remotely and safely and make social connections. Find thousands of other virtual volunteer opportunities on Create the Good.