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When people think of charity, a lot of times they think of donating money, or perhaps old clothes, to big organizations. There are actually lots of other, more creative ways that you can get involved in your local and global community to make a difference in the lives of people who need a helping hand. Here are 10 unusual ways you can change the world for the better.
1. Give an animal.
In an urban world it might be hard to imagine how useful an animal is, but the gift of an animal can truly change someone’s life in a rural setting. Heifer International allows you to give the gift of an animal to a family in need – from chickens and rabbits to llamas and cows, you can send an animal that will provide food and a sustainable livelihood to a family.
2. Donate your old cell phone.
If you’re due for a cell phone upgrade, don’t just throw away your old one or forget it in some random dark corner of your house, donate it so that it can be useful to someone else! There are a variety of charitable organizations that accept cell phone donations for various causes, including Cell Phones for Soldiers that helps US troops phone home, as well as the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Shelter Alliancethat use cell phone donations to help fund their programs to protect victims of domestic violence. A quick Google search will tell you where you can donate your cell phone in your area.
3. Give a micro loan.
When you think of loans, you probably think of loans for cars, houses, maybe about your student loans...ugh. But there is a whole different kind of loan that you can give to people around the world to help them get their own businesses off the ground – microloans. These are loans in small amounts to help individuals, and you can help give them through Kiva, an organization that matches people looking for loans with people willing to lend. In fact, HP recently teamed up with Kiva and started their Matter to a Million initiative to give their employees credit to fund microloans through Kiva. Join HP and make a loan that can change someone’s life!
4. Donate your old car to Cars for a Cure.
You can walk, run, donate money and time to cancer research, but did you know you can also donate your car? In fact, the American Cancer Society accepts tax-deductible donations of cars, trucks, boats, trailers, and RVs. Your donation can help fund research, lodging, rides, support groups, and more for cancer patients in your area. All you have to do is fill out some information and schedule a free pick-up time for your car.
5. Teach English in your community.
If you’ve ever traveled abroad, you probably know how difficult it can be to get around when you can’t speak the language. Now imagine livingin a country where you have trouble speaking the language – that means that just buying your groceries or taking the bus becomes a difficult and often embarrassing ordeal. You can help people in your community who are struggling with this very same problem by volunteering to help teach English as a second language. I volunteered as a teacher’s helper in the English Language & Civics adult class with American YouthWorks in Austin, TX, and it was a wonderful experience. I met some great people and got the opportunity to help them become more confident speaking English. Search for local opportunities to volunteer teaching ESL and I assure you, you won’t regret it!
6. Give an hour to a veteran.
Mental health needs are an important part of a veteran’s recovery after returning home, and one that is quite often overlooked by the system that is supposed to support them. Give An Hour is a nonprofit organization that helps match volunteer mental health providers with veterans and their families. If you’re a mental health professional or alternative provider, you can volunteer to be on the Give an Hour list and give your time to veterans seeking help. If you’re not a professional but you want to help, Give an Hour also has a variety of other volunteer opportunities you can get involved with.
7. Grant a wish to a senior.
We all have lots of wishes and dreams, some big and some small. Personally, one of my dreams is to throw a party with fancy snacks. Little bowls of nuts and tiny empanadas, you know? No matter how serious or silly the wish is, you have the chance to help a senior citizen’s dream come true through the Twilight Wish Foundation. You can either donate to help grant the wishes of seniors around the country, or you can get involved with the organization as a volunteer.
8. Volunteer with a crisis hotline.
Everybody goes through hard times in life. We’re lucky if we have someone trustworthy we can talk to. Some people, unfortunately, have trouble finding that ear to listen and shoulder to lean on. If you consider yourself a good and caring listener, you can lend your ears to others when they’re going through hard times by volunteering with a crisis hotline. There are a variety of online and phone hotlines out there such as RAINN, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, Contact, and many others. Most offer training courses to prepare you to be an effective listener and to be able to help out the people who call.
9. Give blood.
Even if you don’t have a lot of cash or items to donate, you can always donate your blood. Did you know the amount of blood you donate in one session can help save up to 3 lives? The American Red Cross is always looking for blood donations, and there are often blood drives and events where you can go and donate. You can schedule a blood donation appointment with the Red Cross online here.
10. Redirect gifts.
If you’re like me, then despite trying to be pretty frugal, you probably have more stuff than you know what to do with. Next time your birthday or Christmas rolls around, instead of letting your friends and family gift you even more stuff, ask them to donate to your favorite charity, organization, or cause instead.