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Volunteering - USA


Voluntourism

The act of framing your travels around a volunteering experience -- is one of the best ways to get to know the United States. If you’re passionate about lending a hand in a particular field and equally keen on traveling, you should definitely consider coupling the two. Here’s a comprehensive rundown on the best volunteer organizations in the states to help you brainstorm your next volunteering vacation.



Environment

Although (or perhaps because) the United States has a track record of pursuing policies that harm the environment, there are tons of well-intentioned organizations that work to better our natural habitats. Get your hands dirty planting trees and preserving national parks, work to remove invasive species, lobby as a climate activist, or canvass to spread the word on important issues.


With the Sierra Club, arguably the most famous environmental nonprofit founded by John Muir over a century ago, you can work towards a gamut of environmental causes. With the World Wildlife Fund, you can work with endangered species, while Wilderness Volunteers does week-long trips to help maintain outdoor areas. In general, each state has their own public State Parks agency that normally looks for all the help they can get. Also, World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WOOFing) also has opportunities right here in the U.S.


Education and Youth

Whether you’re studying to become a teacher or just curious what it might be like to work as an educator, the U.S. has options for volunteering in education. Considering the amount an average American works per week, kids are increasingly in need of attention from third parties. Volunteering your time in after-school settings, or as a camp counselor or in helping out in sports or the arts can be a very rewarding experience.


Consider government organizations like 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. You can also help out with religious organizations by stopping at your local church, temple, or mosque. Recreational spaces like the YMCA are usually looking for volunteers, and Teach for America has opportunities for those looking for a more traditional teaching role.


Development

Both economic and structural development are important sectors of the volunteering industry. If you have an interest in carpentry, Habitat for Humanity is a well-known organization that operates builds all over the country. Americorps, while very broad in scope, has plenty of programs focused on community development. Both Habitat for Humanity and Americorps work with a wide array of partner organizations that you can contact directly if they are short on space. If you’re looking for a more formal job position rather than a volunteer opportunity, check out this USA Gap Year Job Guide for useful information on how to make the most of your time in between studies.


Food and Health

It goes without saying that poverty is a significant social issue, and the most dramatic manifestations of poverty come in the form of food and health insecurity. Donating your time at a food drive, a homeless shelter, or a low-income hospital short on resources are surefire ways to impact real, lasting change.


Consider organizations like Feeding America for finding local food drives in any city, VolunteerMatch for finding gigs at homeless shelters, and your local hospital or children’s hospital for any pressing needs they may have.

If you’re in the Boston area, check out Volunteer Boston: Best Organizations to Collaborate With.


Relief and Emergency

After every natural disaster, many people feel at a loss for how they can transform their sympathy into help. Organizations like FEMA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, UNICEF, and the United Methodist Committee on Relief all specialize in disaster relief. You can help by cleaning up damaged communities, allocating the delivery of important resources, and assembling care packages for those in need.


No matter where your passions lie, it’s clear that the United States has pressing needs and ample opportunities to donate your time and energy. For more information on how to make the most of your time volunteering in the states, check out Useful Advice and Information on Travelling in the USA. And, if you’re interested in branching outside of the U.S, discover the Top Five Places to Volunteer around the world.