The website Create the Good recently published this excellent list of suggestions for volunteering in 2013. I’m republishing it here, today, and encourage you to give serious consideration to making this the year that you start giving back to the community. Make it your New Year’s Resolution – OK, so it’s almost February, but it’s never too late to start!
1. Week 1: Share some homemade hot cocoa mix with an older friend down the street—try this slightly spicy mix from Alton Brown.
2. Week 2: Do you know someone in the neighborhood with a bad back? Offer to shovel his driveway or if a nice fire is in order, chop some wood.
3. Week 3: Go to Petfinder.com to find your nearest animal shelter. Then, donate an hour of your time to giving some local cuties some exercise!
4. Week 4: Is there a new person or family in your area? Invite them to dinner or offer to take them on a tour of their new neighborhood.
5. Week 5: Learn to recognize the symptoms of a stroke and act F.A.S.T. You may save a life.
6. Week 1: Ask your grandkid’s teacher to have the class write valentines to residents of local nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
7. Week 2: It’s Valentine’s Day! Make a local senior your valentine—bring a deck of cards to the nursing home and play Hearts or deliver a handwritten valentine to show you’re thinking of them.
8. Week 3: For President’s Day, volunteer at a local elementary school. Be prepared to share with children who your favorite president is—and why.
9. Week 4: Make sure the older residents in your neighborhood are still safe drivers. If you don’t feel they are, sit down with them and (nicely!) discuss some public transportation alternatives to their favorite destinations.
10. Week 1: As winter turns to spring, get your neighborhood moving again. Organize a walk, or “March,” to get people socializing and exercising in the fresh air.
11. Week 2: Bring the luck of the Irish to a new friend at a nursing home for St. Patrick’s Day. Chocolate coins done up in gold wrappers brings everyone delicious luck.
12. Week 3:Get the jump on spring cleaning season by donating old magazines and books to hospital waiting rooms. You can also take clothing or other household items to donation centers like the Salvation Army.
13. Week 4: Planning now for a family reunion this summer? Ask everyone to bring a donation to the gathering, or schedule an hour of volunteer time into the reunion fun.
14. Week 1: April Fools’! Play a positive prank on someone in need—take their garbage out to the curb or leave a bouquet on their doorstep. They’ll be pleasantly puzzled at who did the good deed!
15. Week 2: April showers bring May flowers! Offer to water a neighborhood senior’s plants while they’re away.
16. Week 3: April 15 is Tax Day. While money’s on your mind, teach your grandkid the basics about financial literacy.
17. Week 4: Earth Day is the perfect time to get started on a community garden. Grab some friends, supplies and sunlight and get those hands dirty!
18. Week 1: May is National Military Appreciation Month, so take time to help a military family in need. You can babysit, donate a welcome home kit, or just stop a soldier at the store to say thanks.
19. Week 2: On Mother’s Day, show your appreciation for moms around the neighborhood. New moms could use a few hours of childcare. Older ones might benefit from a quick Skype tutorial for face-to-face chats with family far away.
20. Week 3: May is also National Smile Month! Put a smile on someone’s face by putting together a basket of toothbrushes, toothpastes and flosses to donate to a local shelter or nursing home.
21. Week 4: Craft the Good: Decorate inexpensive terracotta pots then fill them with potting soil and a seed packet. Give these eco-friendly gifts to neighbors—it’s a great way to say thanks, introduce yourself, or teach kids about gardening.
22. Week 5: On Memorial Day, remember the men and women who gave their lives to the United States Armed Forces by cleaning up around a tombstone and bringing some flowers.
23. Week 1: Flag Day is next week! Prepare to help a senior commemorate their service by grabbing a flag, a pole and some mounting gear to hang up on their porch.
24. Week 2: Father’s Day is the perfect time to get outside to volunteer. Give young dads a day off with tickets to a ball game, or take a stroll with an older dad to hear all about what it was like when he was young.
25. Week 3: It’s wedding season! If you’re planning or attending weddings this summer, ask where the centerpieces are going after the event. Florists or families can often make arrangements to have them donated to local hospitals or nursing homes, hassle-free.
26. Week 4: June 23-26 is “Watermelon Seed-Spitting Week.” Keep the tradition alive: Take some delicious watermelon slices to a senior who may live alone and spend some time chatting (and spitting seeds) on their back porch.
27. Week 1: On July 4, declare independence from isolation. To make sure no one is alone, throw an ice cream social in your backyard and invite the whole neighborhood—or throw one at your local nursing home.
28. Week 2: Mon Dieu! July 14 is Bastille Day, the day when commoners stormed the jails to free their friends from imprisonment. Free an elderly, sick or disabled neighbor from a lonely house by taking them out for a drive or to lunch.
29. Week 3: Put together Extreme Heat Toolkits for at-risk seniors in your neighborhood or at local shelters. You’ll help prevent heat-related illnesses—and even death.
30. Week 4: Keep animals healthy, too! Offer your time to drive dogs and cats from your local animal shelter to and from their vaccination appointments.
31. Week 5: Live near a river or know of one that needs cleaning up? Check out CTG’s Clean Up A River How-To Guide. You can even start a full-fledged project of your own!
32. Week 1: August is Children’s Eye Health and Safety Month, so pick up inexpensive sunglasses for children in your neighborhood. They’ll appreciate the favor when they’re playing outside in the sun.
33. Week 2: Help your friends and family start a recycling program in their homes by designating a separate trash can for recyclables. Post a list above it of what you can and cannot recycle. (And figure out where the local recycling center is for neighborhoods that don’t have a collection program.)
34. Week 3: Back-to-School Supply Drive: Go around the neighborhood collecting school supply donations, or use our How-To Guide to learn how to start your own drive for your grandkids’ schools.
35. Week 4: Free lemonade! In the dog days of summer, set up a free lemonade stand for a few hours in the afternoon to keep your neighborhood cool. You might even meet some new friends!
36. Week 1: September 2 is Labor Day. When you hit the beach on your three-day weekend, take an hour to pick up trash along the surf. Or if you’re planning a stay-cation, offer to walk an older neighbor’s pets or water plants while they’re away.
37. Week 2: 9/11 is the National Day of Service and Remembrance. Honor the anniversary of Patriot Day by doing good in your community: Hang a flag outside your house, or offer to hang one for the senior down the street who’s fought in a war.
38. Week 3: Put together a foster kit for animals finding a new home—a pet bed, a collar, a leash, a bag of food and some toys—and drop it off at your local animal shelter.
39. Week 4: September is the best month for hiking along tree-laden trails. While you’re there, plug into our ideas for preserving and cleaning our national parks.
40. Week 1: By October, the leaves are falling. Keep an older neighbor’s yard tidy by offering to rake leaves.
41. Week 2: Your neighbor’s dog that’s looking lonely in his backyard? Offer to go over with a tennis ball or treats and light up Spot’s day.
42. Week 3: In honor of Columbus Day, go exploring in your neighborhood for at least one older friend who could use some companionship.
43. Week 4: International Games Day is only a week away (November 2), so if you haven’t already, get prepared with a deck of cards or favorite board game to take to the local nursing home or assisted living facility. You’ll have a great time and make some new friends.
44. Week 5: Trick or treat! On Halloween, bring a big bowl of candy to a neighbor’s house and sit with them through the night, chatting and getting to know one another while handing out candy to costumed kids.
45. Week 1: Go around your neighborhood to make sure all your older friends have got their clocks adjusted for Daylight Savings Time.
46. Week 2: On Veterans Day, take time to volunteer at a local army hospital, or lay a wreath at a memorial. There may be some veterans at local nursing homes or in your neighborhood who would love to share a story or two.
47. Week 3: Help older neighbors prepare to send out their holiday cards. You can keep it simple by offering your time (and conversation) to help them address cards—or show them new online ways to send cards with websites like SnapFish or Shutterfly.
48. Week 4: November 28 is Thanksgiving. If you’re staying home for the holidays and have plenty to be thankful for, give a senior in your neighborhood who’s at risk of isolation something to be thankful for, too: an invitation to dinner.
50. Week 2: Craft the Good: Take an hour or two to create luminaries, wreaths or snow globes to give to older friends around the neighborhood or those in need.
51. Week 3: Start a tradition of service with your family. Whip up a meal for an older neighbor down the street or volunteer some holiday time at a shelter.
52. Week 4: Christmas is an ideal time to volunteer. Take some presents to Toys for Tots—or even to the family right across the street.
Many thanks to Create the Good for this great list of weekly ideas: why not “make this a good year”, as they suggest, and see just how rewarding it can be giving back to others!
This week the violent death, nearly 14 years ago, of a 17-year-old girl has been inspiring middle-schoolers in Wisconsin to show respect and concern for others, rather than tolerating bullying, discrimination and violent behaviour, along with the resulting isolation that so often blights the teen years.
On Tuesday students at Gordon Olson School in Mauston, Wisconsin were challenged to become more compassionate towards their peers. Through a special assembly and subsequent leadership training they received the accumulated wisdom of the Rachel’s Challenge programme – legacy of Rachel Joy Scott, who was killed in the Columbine High School massacre in Colorado in 1999.
More than 17 million people worldwide are now estimated to have heard Rachel Scott’s story, and the programme started in her memory by her father Darrell Scott has been credited with averting eight school shootings and preventing more than 500 suicides. It was inspired, of course, by Rachel’s writings, which included the following:
“I have this theory that if one person can go out of their way to show compassion, then it will start a chain reaction of the same. People will never know how far a little kindness can go.”
A timeless message that we would all do well to remember in 2013.
Today – the first day of 2013 – is World Day of Peace (or World Peace Day). What a fitting start to the New Year! And this year the occasion has been recognised by granting an international peace award to a brave 15-year-old girl from Pakistan.
Pakistani student Malala Yousafzai, who is from the town of Mingora in the Swat district of Pakistan, was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen last October, for campaigning for girls to be able to attend school without fear in that part of the country, after strict Sharia law had previously been imposed by the Taliban. Malala was hit just above her left eye by a bullet which grazed the edge of her brain. She was treated at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, after being airlifted to Britain. The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, visited her there, last month.
And today she was announced as recipient of the 2012 Tipperary International Peace Award, which has previously honoured Nelson Mandela, Mikhail Gorbachev and Bill Clinton, among others. Hillary Clinton was also shortlisted for the Award this year. In the words of Peace Convention secretary Martin Quinn, “Malala’s courage has proved to be an inspiration around the globe. The right to education is denied to 61 million children of primary school age around the world and the hopes of these children are represented by the courage, determination and by the voice of Malala Yousafzai. The Taliban tried and failed to silence her and have instead amplified her voice. Though only a child herself, she has now become perhaps the world’s most admired children’s rights advocate. Her campaign to secure access to education for girls in certain regions in Pakistan has also served to highlight broader concerns such as the health and safety of the developing world’s children, women’s rights and the fight against extremism.”
The Tipperary Peace Convention, in recognising Malala’s courage, determination and perseverance, emphasises the impact she has had on people across the world. This is a very auspicious start to 2013, from a ‘youth award’ point-of-view, and one which I am delighted to feature in my first blog of the year.
This time last year I was planning my first-ever blog, here on Generosity News. Well, it’s hard to believe that a whole year has now passed!
And what a year it has been: we’ve met some amazing people and organisations! Looking back over the 424 posts that I have published here since last January 1st I am inspired and encouraged by the sheer amount of goodwill that they evidence. I started out by expressing the hope that 2012 would be a generous year, and that certainly seems to have been the case.
Of course, Generosity News began as a daily review of “Who’s doing what, in the world of philanthropy, charity and altruism” – researching “anything and everything related to generosity and ‘giving’” with the intention of inspiring and cheering readers “with up-to-date reports and good news from around the globe”.
Chreda and the Prize
The more observant among you will have noticed, however, that the emphasis has gradually shifted as the months have gone by. It is no secret that I am a Trustee of the Chreda Foundation, and that my underlying agenda for creating the blog was to research the field, in order to inform our future direction. In particular, we had floated the idea of an award scheme, and we wanted to get a feel for what good works were going on, ‘out there’, to help our planning. We are now much better informed, as a result of the 12 months of blogging, and are starting to firm up our plans for the Chreda Prize, which we hope to launch at the end of this coming year.
With that in mind, I gradually changed the focus of my research (and, therefore, of the blog posts) towards the UK, generally (a large proportion of the reports crossing my desk came – and continue to come – from the United States, which is perhaps unsurprising, considering its population size and prominence on the Internet!), and in particular, towards the activities of young people. The Chreda Foundation believes, and has stated many times, that “Children Are Our Future”, and its work is concerned with the younger generation here within the UK, so we naturally wish to concentrate increasingly on that segment through the medium of Generosity News, which is our main mouthpiece and access to the social networks.
You, my readers
I realise that this may lose me some readers, over time, but that is something I believe I must accept, for the benefit of our long-term strategy. I really do appreciate, though, the faithful support of so many of you, over the last 12 months – visits to the site continue to be well into three figures each day, and on average people seem to be viewing around 6 pages per visit, which is very gratifying, and suggests that we are continuing to meet a need. Many of you, too, have signed up to the RSS feed, so the fact that I had to drop my ‘membership’ plans early-on now causes me little concern.
What I’m leading up to, then, is that during 2013 I will be homing-in even more on young people in the UK, and especially focusing on award schemes. I hope to revamp the layout of the site a little over the coming months, to take account of this, but I will try to do so with the minimum of disruption: I will aim to maintain an uninterrupted service, and I hope to see many of you continuing to visit on a regular basis. As time goes by I intend that the website will become a resource for people wanting information on youth award schemes in the UK, and I look forward to hearing from anyone who is able to provide updated information. Naturally, I will also continue to provide updates on our own Chreda Prize, as it develops.
One other feature that I am considering introducing – which actually has little connection with the primary purpose of the site, but appears to be something that people are seeking – is a database of food banks. I am aware that this is the search term that generates by far the largest number of visits from Google, so I am currently investigating whether I might be able to accommodate this more specifically.
I don’t know about you… but I am approaching the New Year with a sense of excitement and anticipation (especially now that the dreaded end of the Mayan calendar has passed!), and I look forward to continuing to serve you through the medium of Generosity News. So, finally, I’d like to wish you all once again a happy and generous New Year!
Continuing our theme of random acts of kindness and generosity…
A young graduate of Indiana University has adopted an unusual and inspirational New Year’s Resolution: to “give back”, in gratitude for the birth last September of his baby daughter Isla Quinn, by practising random daily acts of kindness.
On 31 December 2011 Ryan Garcia announced his plan to embark “on a journey to make people’s lives better” by doing “a random act of kindness for a stranger, friend or family member” each and every one of this year’s 366 days – ‘366 Random Acts of Kindness‘. Already, recipients of his generosity have included his wife Lindsey, a soldier and his family, firefighters, the Princess Project, a number of homeless people, older cats and dogs at the Anti-Cruelty Society, the annual ’Step Up For Kids‘, and countless passers-by - to mention just a few.
While Ryan is carrying out his wide variety of altruistic activities within the community, he continues to attend to his duties as husband, father and bread-winner. He says that setting a good role model for his young daughter is important to him. On most days, he also has to cope with around 60 or 70 emails from supporters and grateful recipients of his kind acts. The response of people apparently quite moves him, at times, and he admits that the project has had a profound effect on his life. He seems to be in little doubt that he will see his campaign through to a successful conclusion at the end of 2012. “Unless the Mayans are right”, he jokes: “Then this is all for naught!”