Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Mom-Friendly Volunteering: January Edition

by Sandra


Maybe it’s on that long list of ambitious New Year’s resolutions. Maybe it was on last year’s list too. Maybe it was part of your life before kids and now you are just not sure how to squeeze it back in.

Pulling together this first installment of parent-friendly volunteer opportunities, (that take into account a mama’s schedule or welcome our children), hasn’t been as easy as I’d hoped. One organization actually told me, “Our volunteer roles are very mom-friendly. They are anybody-friendly. You just need to hire a babysitter.”

I absolutely get there are many roles that, for lots of valid and practical reasons, are more suited to us at other times in our lives. Tutoring teens, sitting on a board, answering the phone at a suicide line, helping at a fundraiser, or doing advocacy work can be tough if you don’t have childcare support. Because, let’s face it, sometimes just getting your haircut is tough to do with a child.

But it can be done. Well, (examining roots) maybe not always the haircut … but the volunteering … it can.

The most important factor in finding a meaningful volunteer experience is to identify a cause you are passionate about. Start by calling your favourite charity and telling them what you hope to get out of volunteering and the time you have to commit. Consider inquiring about becoming a virtual volunteer or writing for a newsletter. You can ask for flexible roles or ones that welcome your child or that can even involve your older kids. A good volunteer manager will work with you to find the right fit.

To save you some time, here are a few current local volunteer openings that are uber mom-friendly…

Roots of Empathy

The fabulous west-coast Canadian blogger, Mother-Woman, recently wrote about, Roots of Empathy. This is a remarkable initiative where babies become part of a classroom learning program to help develop empathy in children. One of my friends has volunteered in a Toronto school with her baby and raves about the experience. If your baby is between 2-4 months old, you should check out their site to become an ROE family. If your baby is not so little anymore, contact your principal or teacher about getting this program in your children’s curriculum. I wrote an email to my son’s school last week.

Visiting Seniors

The West Toronto Support Services, (and other similar organizations that work with seniors) are looking for volunteers for their friendly visiting program. They welcome children to come on the visit with an older person who could benefit from the company and many of the seniors love to meet the wee ones. To learn more, contact: rdin@wtss.org.

Blog for Good

Want to take those blogging skills and help a fairly new charity? The Children’s AIDS Health Program, has an opening for a blogger to write about their programs and the issue of children living with AIDS. Started by some very remarkable youth, you can reach them at: volunteer@letsstopaids.org.

Volunteering Outside a Specific Charity

If volunteering for a specific charity doesn’t work for you, there are lots of ways you can make a meaningful difference outside of the structures of a formalized non-profit volunteer program. Perhaps you know a neighbour who has trouble getting around – you could offer to help them with their grocery shopping. Or, do what we did one year, and form a family assembly line in your kitchen to pack a few dozen nutritious brown-bag meals. Then tour around the city and deliver dinner to those weathering the elements and living on our streets.

The options are endless. Really endless.

And it feels good. As good as a new hair cut … or even better.


When she is not raising her 5-year-old-boy-genius, Sandra is an ex-advertising exec who spends her days working with a grassroots feminist charity. She is also an aspiring writer, chocolate-loving vegetarian … and a blogger.


something blue said...

Thanks Sandra for helping us see that we can all make a meaningful difference. With this approach, the world will be a place worthy of huge smiles.

Mother Bumper said...

Once again another brilliant post and I must admit I giggled with the "... it feels good. As good as a new hair cut … or even better." SOLD! That did it for me.

Bri said...

What a great post, I came across this site that offers great volunteer oportunities across the world; http://www.idealist.org/

Lisa b said...

It is really hard to get out there once you've had kids but you bring up some great and realistic options

metro mama said...

Cakes and I stop to say hello to folks at the residence when we go to visit my grandparents. The sight of a little one is such a breath of fresh air for them.

crazymumma said...

I love your idea of the entire family in on the action.....