In 2012, Michelle Obama said, “Success isn’t about how much money you make; it’s about the difference you make in people’s lives.” As humans we yearn to make a difference, to leave our mark. And most of us know helping better others’ lives has positive impacts on our own — making us happier, more balanced, and instilling a greater sense of purpose in the everyday. But, it can be easy to get bogged down in the daily grind and miss the benefits, to ourselves and our communities, that getting involved can provide.
And most of us don’t know where to start. So, have a look below at 10 suggestions for how to begin, and start making a difference today!
Volunteering energy and skills to a local organization is a great way to give back to your community. Whether a hospital, food bank, youth group, senior’s home, or animal shelter there are tonnes of local organizations that would benefit from your time. A quick search online will help find local opportunities. Or, contact organizations you’re interested in helping out to be put in touch with their local team.
2. Donate Blood
With one donation you can save many lives, yet just one patient could require multiple donors. For heart surgery it’s up to five. Leukemia treatments, as many as eight donors a week. Emergency care for a car accident can use up to 50. Every donation makes a difference in someone’s life, and what greater gift could you give? Plus, they’ll give you a juice and a cookie. Everyone wins, so schedule your next donation today.
3. Become a Mentor
Become a mentor to someone who would benefit from your skills, knowledge, and experience. Maybe there’s someone in your social circles or profession you would like to help along the way. If not organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters, futurpreneur, or Trudeau Foundation are there to help you connect you with folks in your area who could use a helping hand.
4. Organize a Charitable Event
Find a cause you’re passionate about and organize on its behalf. Maybe you raise money for a senior’s program, or collect food donations for a community pantry. If you want to help but you’re stuck for ideas reach out to the organization you‘d like to help — they likely have suggestions on hand to pick from, or inspire your own.
5. Shop Local
Shopping local invests in your community. Spending money locally supports the local economy and your neighbours — by keeping money in your neighbourhood, where it can be reinvested again through other shops and services. It’s a cycle that keeps on giving.
6. Adopt a Neighbour
You don’t have to go far or orchestrate grand gestures to make an impact on someones life. Whether the older man from down the street who lives alone, or the young mother (of toddlers) on the corner, there are folks in your neighbourhood who could use a hand. Maybe you help shovel after a big storm, take them to the grocery store, or mow the lawn. It might not even matter what you do as long as you show you care.
7. Attend Community Meetings
Community meetings are a great place to meet people from your neighbourhood while developing a deeper familiarity with that community. And it’s a great way to build feelings of belonging and ownership of the place you call home. And you never know, maybe you’ll discover a passion for local politics or activism along the way!
8. Organize a Clean Up
All you need to hold a successful clean up is a big box of garbage bags, a bigger box of recycling bags, a substantial supply of rubber gloves, a group of friends or volunteers, and a location that needs some love. And these days most public parks, beaches, and neighbourhood streets are in need of a little TLC, and sometimes folks just need a little inspiration to encourage them to help out. Lead the way, and see what follows!
9. Join a Community Garden
Not only do community gardens beautify the community, they often provide produce and other goods to local neighbourhoods — often underserved areas. And whether a green thumb or just beginning a relationship with the land there’s always lots of work to be done to get to harvest. You won’t just be growing fruit and vegetables, but friendships and community along the way!
10. Help Build an Affordable Home
Habitat for Humanity is an organization that, with the help of volunteers, builds of safe and affordable housing in more than 70 countries around the world. Houses are built, or renovated, over a number of weeks. And not only can you choose the kind of project you work on but you work alongside the family who will live in the house at the end of the build.
Robyn McNeil is a Nova Scotia-based freelance writer, bartender, and assistant editor of the Whole Family Happiness Project. She lives in Halifax, with her son and a penchant for really strong tea, yoga, hammocks, and hoppy beer.
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The Whole Family Happiness Project is a group of moms exploring our connection to our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us. Come join us on Facebook.