Thursday, October 29, 2009

Re-Vamping Volunteering

There must be more to life than term papers. If our existence revolves solely around deadlines, homework, and making the grade, I’m going to go out on a limb and say, “It’s not worth it.”
So what is worth it then? If I am going to be stuck in stuffy classrooms for 16 hours each week and stacked up to my neck in academia for the hopes of someday helping other people, what can I do to feel like I am making a difference now?
I’m glad you asked.
A volunteer is “a person who voluntarily offers himself or herself for a service or undertaking” ( While simply the phrase “volunteering” might make you think of can collecting in Pathfinders, there are a multitude of opportunities that span anywhere from tutoring refugees to coaching soccer.
A great place to start on your “helping others intervention” is Campus Ministries. Ever heard of SOS (something on Sabbath) or JOB ministries? Every week students raid the community with songs and encouragement, or able bodies and paintbrushes. You can even receive emails of upcoming opportunities. What could be easier? All you have to do is show up.
Try Googling “volunteer in Lincoln, NE.” The 294,000 hits might make you think twice about the needs in our own community. Did you know Lincoln rates among the top 15 sites for refugee relocation in the United States? People from Burma, Sudan, Afghanistan and many other countries live scattered throughout Lincoln. They need English tutors. Check out for details.
Do you like working with kids? How about kids ages 3-18 who are dealing with the loss of a parent? Charlie Brown’s Kids is an organization that meets twice a month and assists children working through grief. Look online or call (402) 483-1845.
Lincoln Parks and Recreation is always looking for willing people to Adopt-a-Trail, help coach team sports, or volunteer with city-wide events. Check out their website and click, “volunteer.”
Have you been to Indigo Bridge bookstore yet? Located right across the hall from Ivanna Cone, Indigo Bridge offers great reading, tasty teas and coffees, as well as a wealth of rewarding and literacy-minded volunteer opportunities.
Joan Hines, the volunteer coordinator at Indigo Bridge, told me, “Our mission is to serve Lincoln in furthering literacy and community. Indigo Bridge was opened with the hope that selling books would provide a means to reach out to the community by way of helping, funding, or promoting programs that teach and strengthen literacy and bring empowerment.”
Here are some great ways to get involved at Indigo Bridge:
-Story and activity time at People's City Mission
-Teaching preschool-type activities to Spanish-speaking children twice a week
-Becoming a book buddy with a child at Everett or McPhee Elementary once per week for 30-45 minutes
-Reading for a bilingual Spanish/English story time on Saturdays morning for 30 minutes
-Literacy-based afterschool clubs meeting once per week
-Volunteering for festivals or events which may provide crafts, games or storytelling
-Putting on a literacy-based camp during spring or fall break at McPhee Elementary
-Being a part of “Bridging Families with Books,” a monthly club that comes up with book titles and an activity. Each family gets a free book and pizza one night per month.
If any of these opportunities sound interesting or downright perfect for bringing you out of your academic bubble, check out their website, stop in, or give them a call at (402) 477-7770 and ask for Joan.
Service looks different depending what side of the globe you are on. In Africa, a hungry child on the side of the road obviously needs food. In war-torn Iraq, a lost teenager obviously needs an education. But what needs do we see in Lincoln? Americans as a whole have been brought up to persevere, be strong, and exude prosperity. We “look” like we have it all together, so the needs are more difficult to see. The point is, the needs are still there.
“A civilization flourishes when people plant trees under which they will never sit.” –Greek Proverb

(The Clocktower, 2009)