Do you have a roof over your head when you sleep to shelter you from harsh weather? What about two legs to walk on or eyes to see? Can you read a book or a newspaper? It may be hard to believe but there are people who can't say yes to simple questions like these. While we may not be able to solve all of the world's problems, we can definitely make a big difference by doing community service to help those with problems.
There are so many ways and areas to help. For example, I'm sure that homeless shelters and soup kitchens could greatly use volunteers. Even if you are only able to help once a week or once a month, this is enough to make a change in someone's life. And if you are too busy, there are still ways to help. You can donate canned goods or other items. Right now, there are several projects in my school. One is a toiletry drive. It may seem unbelievable to us, but many can't afford basic items such as shampoo, soap, shaving cream, toothpaste, etc. So we collect these items and make toiletry kits, which we will donate to homeless shelters.
Another project involving shelters is nicknamed the "Tower of Towels." Imagine stepping out of a shower and not having a towel. Well, this is the case for some. So we are collecting bath and hand towels, and building a "tower" with them. When we're done, the towels will be given to shelters.
Another area of community service concerns hospitals and nursing homes. Many patients in these places must lie in a bed all day, due to illness, disease, disability, etc. They depend on others to feed and bathe them. It would make them feel so much better if someone came in to keep them company. All they want is someone to talk to or watch TV with. Or they may want you to read a book or write a letter for them because they cannot do it themselves. Helping out in simple ways can mean a lot.
Being a mentor or tutor is another good way to get involved. I'm involved in a great mentoring program called HOSTS (Help One Student To Succeed), which is aimed at helping younger children who are having difficulties in school, particularly reading. Once a week, some of my friends and I go to an elementary school where we each help a student with schoolwork. It's easy and fun. If there isn't a mentoring, tutoring, or literacy program where you live, you could start one. Or you could just help the kid down the street who's having problems or the person on your sports team who needs help. You never know, you may be the one person who that individual can look to for help. You may turn out to be the most influential person in his or her life.
These are all good ways to give something back to your community. Remember, no matter how down and out you are, there are less fortunate people. And volunteer work can benefit you, too. It really is very gratifying to know that you have done something meaningful and have made a change in someone's life, no matter how small. So go out, grab some friends, and make a difference in your community! fl
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.