5 Ways to do Good as a Student
These days there are a multitude of ways to support good causes. Online campaigns and petitions, epic sponsored runs, and even apps like iCukoo that allow you to donate money every time you hit the snooze button on your alarm. But you want to do more, right? You want to actively participate and make a real difference?
1. Donate Unwanted Items
Donating is perhaps the easiest, most helpful and often most overlooked ways to do good. When clearing out your dorm, take old clothes to your nearest charity shop – how much of it do you really need anyway? Same applies to the DVD you have only watched once in the last two years. It will make a massive difference for whichever organization you choose to support, with many major charities owing almost 25% of their income to their shops.
You can find a new home for pretty much most of your unwanted things taking up the limited space in your room, and it may be worth thinking outside the box when it comes to what you want to support. For example, it’s always worth familiarizing yourself with local organisations and services such as homeless shelters, community and youth centers as well as women’s refuges, where money is usually pretty tight, and they may be unable to afford the creature comforts that could serve to make a turbulent time in someone’s life that much more comfortable.
Perhaps the most obvious option, but a great one for the community and for your CV. It is something that everyone should do at least once, and there is no better time than when you’re a student.
Most university student services will offer support and links to lots of local organisations, so is a great place to start looking. The options really are vast, from schools, youth clubs, animal shelters, refuges, environmental and horticultural projects, and so on. It is worth giving some thought as to the type of organisation you are interested in joining and do as much research as possible to ensure its right for you, so you don’t end up wasting your – and their – time!
You will generally find that most opportunities are pretty flexible, requiring a commitment as low as 4 hours a month. Though if you’re still not sure quite whether you can squeeze it into your schedule, there are other more options for helping out with a spare hour or so at home every now and then. Innovative projects like Help From Home (www.helpfromhome.org) offer a service to encourage bite-sized participation on various projects from home. Similarly, the peer-to-peer online mentoring site Horsesmouth (www.horsesmouth.co.uk) allows you to help and support others through sharing your own experiences.
3. Summer Abroad/
A summer travelling is incredibly appealing, and is growing in popularity. Many students are spending summer holidays travelling to impoverished regions across the globe to offer practical help and support in building up community services where it is much needed. There are loads of programs available, across lots of different sectors in countless countries. Many require you to pay in advance for your travel and expenses, though you will have the reassurance of being with a group part of a recognized program such as ISV (www.isvolunteers.org).
These projects will generally span between 2 weeks to 3 months, and enable you to get real hands on experience in different communities and cultures. Though, it’s important to do your research thoroughly. Many experts are beginning to wake up to the realities of what they are now calling ‘poverty tourism’ which can cause more harm than good, potentially fuelling child abuse in the hosting communities - amongst other things.
Another great way to experience a ‘do good’ and low cost way of spending a summer abroad is through the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) program (www.wwoof.org.uk). As a WWOOFer, you have the opportunity to travel across the globe, living and working on small organic farms. Conditions and specifications vary between the individual sites, but generally you will receive food and accommodation in return for your work, with enough time off to explore, and perhaps travel into the nearest city.
Though perhaps technically another form of volunteering, fundraising can be a really creative, fun and social way to make a difference whilst still enjoying the student lifestyle. The typical bucket collections are not much fun, granted, but there are so many more ways to make it an enjoyable experience. A popular alternative approach for students is event hosting. Many bars are always up for acting as a venue for a fundraiser, where you’ll be able to bring in a few bands or other acts to entertain your guests. Charge a small entrance fee, and all the proceeds can go to a charity of your choosing!
These can be great activities that fill out your social calendar whilst raising funds and awareness for local causes. They can also be organized in conjunction with any particular societies you’re part of or may otherwise wish to get involved.
Benefits include development of skills that look great on a CV - networking, negotiating, organizational skills – as well as socializing with an array of new people, and of course the buzz of raising money and awareness for the cause of your choice.
Often misjudged as a somewhat unruly past-time, being politically involved in student, local, national or even global affairs is a great way to make an impact on a wider level. Student activism has a long history, and has contributed to a range of social changes over the years (just look back at the 1960s).
Social media now provides students with an easy way to network with like-minded people, and enables causes to gather momentum quickly. So, again, give it some thought: What inspires you? What enrages you? What changes would you like to see? Do some research into any relevant political or environmental groups in your city with likeminded motivation, see what they’re up to and how you can get involved and make your voice heard?
As the influential writer Elie Wiesel once said, “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."
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