When it comes to making a difference, should we travel to far-off destinations? Or should we do it closer to home?
I think where possible (and it is always possible), we should make our own communities better, before venturing off to change the unknown.
There are injustices happening all over the world, not just in the places that have been sold to us as being poor or in conflict. Some of the fastest growing inequalities are actually in countries like New Zealand and parts of Europe like Italy and Spain.
There are so many organisations to get involved in and I think we have a responsibility to live our values at home before trying to spread them around in other places. Some of my favourite and most rewarding work has been within my own community – it felt great to connect with other locals and be able to contribute to making my community a better place.
Why you should help out at home first
This is your HOME. Surely we want home to be awesome and make sure it is that way for everyone there?
Getting involved with issues or organisations at home means that you can make a difference now (rather than saving up and waiting for a year to go help somewhere for a week).
Because it is your own community, you will have an in-depth knowledge of things you couldn’t even explain about this place. This knowledge will help you have better success, pick better tactics and ideas, and, because it is your community, the changes will be easier to notice.
How to make a difference locally
- Write a list of all issues or topics that interest you
- Pick one or two favourites to start with
- Research local organisations that work in those areas. Write down their contact details. (Have a think if you know anyone who has links to those organisations)
- Find out about those organisations. What do they focus on? How do they work?
- Prepare an introduction letter/email and your CV, using your research to make a good impression and make sure you’re a good fit. (Your CV is important to prove you´re not crazy and have something to contribute)
- Do you know anyone in the organisations? If so, think about contacting them first and asking for their support to get involved. If not, send an email with your introduction and CV to the contact of the organisation.
- Wait for their reply.
If they don´t respond after two weeks, try ringing to ask if they have any opportunities and who you should speak to. If they do respond, great! Hopefully it´s positive, but if not, don´t worry! Go onto the next organisation/issue.
Some areas that you might be interested in, to get you started
- Politics, transparency and accountability (writing submissions for law changes, monitoring spending and the Budget)
- Local government (attending council meetings and discussions, making submissions, joining committees)
- Tree planting
- Revitalisation of wet areas or forests or streams
- Animal rescue, fostering or care
- Animal cruelty (fighting it!)
- Refugees (supporting their relocation and settlement)
- English tutoring
- Work mentoring (eg. For the unemployed or the young)
- Violence against women and children (eradicating it!)
- Climate change and environmental education and campaigning (go hand out flyers!)
- Community gardens
- Community art education (art is important for all!)
- Reintegration of prisoners (go volunteer at a prison – teach yoga, read a book)
- Save the whales (go help when they get beached)
- Time Bank/or similar (to share knowledge and help others)
- Recycling (go volunteer at a recycling station at the dump)
- Visit and support the elderly (bring some flowers to someone in a home)
- Be a fount of knowledge and support at a law centre, workers´ rights centre or information organisation (like Citizens´ Advice Bureau in NZ)
- Volunteer at a soup kitchen or food bank